Explore the myriad themes in the work of German artist Thomas Ruff in this first major London retrospective.

Since the 1970s, Thomas Ruff has been examining the role of the photographic image, its creation and manipulation, and what it can say about contemporary preoccupations as diverse as utopianism and advertising.

Arranged thematically, this major retrospective includes work from the beginning of Ruff's career right through to his most recent output. Each series of images was created with a different approach, and in the first gallery alone there is a collection of still lifes using himself as a prop (L’Empereur, 1982), enormous passport-style photographs that reveal every surface detail (Porträts, 1986-91, 1998-), and images taken with a high-performance telescope at the European Southern Observatory (Sterne, 1989-92).

Moving on from the theme of scale in the cosmos and the everyday world, there are explorations of nature and disaster, suburbia, and the technology of surveillance. Substrate (2001-) makes use of images derived from Japanese manga and anime, adapted with computer software, and in the Nudes (1999-), scenes from internet pornography are depicted blurred.

The value of press photography is also investigated with newspaper images reproduced without captions or headlines, and in press++ (2015-), Ruff draws our attention to the manipulation and retouching of photographs from Hollywood and the space race era.

Whitechapel Gallery

77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX

020 7522 7888

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Opening times

Tue – Sun, 11am – 6pm (Thu until 9pm) Closed 24 – 26 Dec

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