Of course there have been many distinguished forays into the direction of abstract images, starting with Schadographs and Rayographs
in the 1920s and continuing to this day with photograms.
THE RAYOGRAPHS Francis/Yellow Hair These three girls have a dark brooding air about them that calls to mind PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and The Breeders.
Ruff's most recent images have been made via a technique that does not seem new at all: They resemble what used to be called photograms or rayographs
, a la El Lissitzky, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, and many other modernists--cameraless photographs made by placing objects directly onto photosensitive materials (such as photographic paper) and exposing them to light.
This important aspect of the artist's psyche informs much of his other work: the simulated, X-ray-like rayographs
, which remain mysterious and illusory while appearing to penetrate to the core of their subjects; the portraiture, in which his signature presence is felt; the wartime persecution paintings in which Man Ray confronts his own dreaded exposure; the late shadow drawings that acknowledge the burden of the past; and his memoir, with its faux transparency.
Which isn't to say he was disconnected: Slow Food/Pasta Salad, 1983, a Polaroid photogram featuring a cherry tomato, bread, grapes, parsley, a fork, and a glass of wine, situates Heinecken as a bridge between Man Ray's Rayographs
and the recent floral photograms by James Welling (a professor in the UCLA photography department Heinecken founded).
The subdued loveliness of the colors of the Man Ray photograph on the cover-old lemon, ultramarine, umber, and ivory-makes the lack of even one set of color reproductions feel miserly, though since the catalogue is mostly reproductions of photographs, solarizations, and Rayographs
originally in black and white, not much is lost.