“Plakats”, Thomas Ruff’s new show at 303 Gallery, consists of photo-montages that take the superficial form of propaganda posters. The new work incorporates collected images that have been manipulated and montaged on a computer.

 

In the earlier “Zeitungsfotos” series, the artist had also used found images from newspapers, but in “Plakats” he has made political content more overt and central to his project. In “Zeitungsfotos” ideology was implicit, as it was in “Nachts”, which was inspired by the televised images of the Gulf War and for which the artist used night- vision equipment employed by the military.

 

“Plakats” more directly confronts us with the gestures and rituals of the visual world of politics as transmitted through the media. Employing the manipulative visual and textual strategies of political propaganda, Thomas Ruff’s posters are instead a kind of counter or negative propaganda. Colorfully bright and polished, following the conventions of the political poster genre, these images of world leaders are also, in the artist’s words, “an anachronistic and ironic treatment” of issues of morality and representation.

 

Thomas Ruff has shown at Documenta IX, the German Pavilion in the ‘95 Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Kunsthalle Zurich, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, among others. His most recent solo show took place last fall at the Centre national de la photographie in Paris, for which a catalogue is available.