Allen Ruppersberg: The Secret of Life and Death
September 21 – November 10 1985
Ruppersberg works like a writer, researching his subjects and reinventing them, selecting, rearranging and isolating images so one sees them in a new way. His definition of art as part of everyday experience, of finding the magic and mystery of the ordinary, opens up all our surroundings as an arena for this artist and for the discovery of meaningful images.
Ruppersberg’s images are less made than they are chosen, found, and subsequently placed of arranged in such a way as to pint out their complexity and layers of meaning. He works in an ambiguous space between image and illustration, retaining a distance from what is seen and the consciousness always of something that is being looked at. The artist is there in the work as the initiator and the observer, making, frequently, a picture of an image.
His work creates a tension between what is familiar yet unknown, what is both personal and anonymous. His work has apparent neutrality yet exposes an emotional undercurrent, its ‘reality’ is like a mirror. It uses generic images that are specific to an idea about an image. He uses images, not in the way a photograph documents or interprets a subject and becomes and independent entity, but in a way in which the distance and the ambiguity between the image and subject, or appearance and content is maintained.
Ruppersberg’s work is practical and matter of fact, paying attention to his surroundings: Los Angeles architecture, its rooms and the objects inside them, movies, books, magazines, and posters, TV, and conversations. It is involved with the ways in which our lives have been influenced by language, through the worlds (emotional and pictoral) that have been formed in literature, the vocabulary we use, the nature of our conversation, and the way things are named.
His work involves research in the everyday world and the recognition of something authentic, something telling, in the midst of a tidal wave of visual information. In turn his art charts his own identity and his interactions with others. It is not always clear if the identity is that of Allen Ruppersberg or of the artist acting for Allen Ruppersberg. The ‘hand’ of the artist is once removed but ever-present. The subject is the image of the idea, not only what we see but how, and what that tells us about ourselves.
-Julia Brown, Senior Curator, from the exhibition catalogue