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JEAN RUITER PROJECT / Archive and Stock Sales photoworks Jean Ruiter
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by Cees Straus

That memorable 11th of September I found myself on a plane to the United States. If one leaves Amsterdam early in the morning, one should arrive at about the same time, local time of course, in the eastern part of the U.S. But this time we didn't make it. Just before the pilot set in the landing, we heard that all airports in the U.S. had been shut down. Briefly, we were told that a disaster had taken place. It took a couple of hours before we began to discern the contours what was perceived as a monstrous attack on the heart of western civilization, an attack on a city famous for its contribution to society at large. In New York, both residents and visitors feel at home quickly, despite all negative aspects of big city life. The first time I visited New York, a few years ago, I had come to meet Jean Ruiter. He lived in a quite neighborhood near 11th Street, slightly north of that part of Manhattan where the streets have names. During our long interview, we walked through those parts of the city where one still feels the old culture, the almost European neighborhoods just north of the Twin Towers. There, in the southern part of town and on Ellis Island, Ruiter found the inspiration for the images that would make up his series 'Urban Opera.'

When the consequences of the events of the morning of the 11th of September became clearer - we had disembarked in Canada and followed the news on the television sets in our temporary accommodation ? it dawned upon me that New York had become part of the Urban Opera Jean Ruiter had shown me. ,,Opera is drama and suffering, things abundantly present in a metropolis. That jungle of people who attack one another and try to do each other in to improve their own condition." That 11th of September New York experienced drama and suffering on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War. One could say that Ruiters sadly prophetic Urban Opera, completed in 1992, has turned out to be his most poignant work so far.

In this first decade of the 21st century artists exhibit an remarkable interest in what is going on in society. After a period of general navel-gazing, every form of introspection inevitably seems to run into a taboo. Many who earlier concentrated on the aberrations of the human body, often with no other aim than to shock, have become hesitant. In his works Jean Ruiter ridicules those ego trips. The series "Corpus Constructed" (1995) for example is an ironic comment on the so-called fitness culture. And in the series "Women: Sacrificed and Desired" (1992-1993) Ruiter calls attention to the exaggerated interest in the physical aspects of feminine beauty, a phenomenon which, in Ruiters view, has been largely misunderstood anyway.

Ruiters most recent series ? as for now called "Silks" or "Revelation of time" - contemplates beauty on a higher level. The works are centered around historical images with a cultural, sociological or sometimes even scientific meaning. In this series, Ruiter works with pictures he found in encyclopedias from the fifties of the 20th century. By reusing them, the meaning of the contents have to be, as it were, reconsidered: the flash-backs rise above feelings of nostalgia and place the meaning of the images in a contemporary perspective. Ruiter projects the images against a silken background. This is a conscious choice: he feels the ever elegant material has a cultivated status with a long evolution. Just as each picture has historical value, so silk stems from a time in which much care was given to the cultural expression of the material. At the same time the material marks a transition from Ruiters preference for landscapes, always dominantly present in his art, to more static surroundings. Ruiters work on Silks coincides with a drastic change in his way of living: he exchanged the nomadic existence of the eternal traveler for a permanent residency in France.

Ruiters focus on society in all her cultural facets is much more than just a whim of fashion. This involvement has permeated his work from early on. Nowadays, Ruiter may be called a contemporary artist ? especially his use of photography as a plastic art is very fashionable at the moment ? but in the seventies and eighties he was ahead of his time. Not that it was a conscious choice to concentrate on the society in which he thought he was functioning. It always was, and still is, his intention to reflect on what occupies his mind or rouses his interest. Apart from his interest in North- American society ? by now he has traveled everywhere in the US ? he is just as curious to see what cultural icons were produced by countries such as Mexico, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, North Africa and Turkey. However, western culture continues to fascinate him, as can be witnessed from the timeless quality of the series 'Cathedrals in the Desert' (1994). For this series he built large installations in the Californian desert, which he subsequently photographed.

Though he considers photography the best medium for expressing his opinions on society, Ruiter is not a photographer in the traditional sense. He is by no means a documentary photographer who simply records the situations he encounters. There always has to be a prior moment that renders a situation against which he can measure himself. Ruiter chooses a country because the culture, the art and sometimes the landscape appeal to him. At the same time this country has to offer something he wants to grasp, to work with: the American presidential elections, for example, or the fact that in every American city you'll find a shop filled with items of a dollar or less. Ruiter does not report these phenomena. He distills images, in this case concrete objects, and provides them with a new context. Usually he does this on the spot, probably to capture the atmosphere of what he has just discovered. But sometimes he chooses a different approach. The Indian culture of Mexico, subject of thousands of photo's and films that do no more than capture the Mayan and Aztec temples and palaces, provided Ruiter with an incentive to create studio images ('Maya's, Aztecs and the Rainforest', 1991- '92.). At the same time he realized that with his recreation of this culture he was entering the political arena. Among other things, he pointed at the deplorable situation of Indians living in the vulnerable rainforest. Without making a political statement ? the last thing on Ruiters mind ? the series grew into a piece of evidence for the proposition that all foreign interest in this as yet uncontaminated civilization inevitably takes a wrong turning.

Huizen (NL), november 2001.

The Photoworks of Jean Ruiter by Jonathan Green, Previous Director UCR/California Museum of Photography
Jean Ruiter Photoworks by Drs. Dorothé Kurvers
Introduction by Cees Straus
Jean Ruiter Photoworks by Adriaan Monshouwer, consultant on Photography
The works of Jean Ruiter by Edward W. Earle, Curator, Collections, International Center of Photography, New York
The works of Jean Ruiter by Robbert Roos (Dutch)
Het is een luxe om altijd te kunnen reizen by Nell Westerlaken (Dutch)
Imaginary Journeys Appendix by Jean Ruiter, Jonathan Green, Adriaan Monshauer and drs.Mirjam Westbroek
The Imaginary Journeys by Jean Ruiter
The Emotional Mathematics by Jean Ruiter
Chaos and Order by Jörg Zimmermann, Germany
It is tricky to understand but "ce n´est pas une pipe" by Jörg Zimmermann
The Tokyo Blind Paths by Jean Ruiter
Single Works 2000-2001, Desperate SuicideTeen by Dorothé Kurvers
The New American Landscapes by Jeroen Hendriks
Pollymer Constructions by Jean Ruiter
The Kyoto Zen Gardens by drs. Marcel Feil, curator at Foam, fotografiemuseum Amsterdam
Newspaper Series by Jean Ruiter
Walking the silent Path by Jean Ruiter
Dante Revisited by Drs. Josien in ‘t Hof (in Dutch)
Minds of Consciousness by drs. Marcel Feil, curator at Foam, fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (in Dutch)
The Nudes of Hattonville by Dorothé Kurvers
Jean Ruiter: A Multifaceted Explorer by Merel Ligtelijn (Dutch)
The Transparent Truth by Cees Straus
Visual Ersatz (Charcoals) by A.D. Coleman, Photography critic, New York
Jean Ruiter's "Corpus Constructed" by A. D. Coleman, Photography critic, New York
Cathedrals in the Desert by Edward Earle, Curator, Collections, International Center of Photography, New York
Cathedrals in the Desert by Jonathan Green, Previous Director UCR/California Museum of Photography
Urban Opera by Cees Straus (in Dutch)
Maya and Aztecs by Dr. Reinhold Miszelbeck
Terra Cultura by Robert Lunsingh Scheurleer
Jean Ruiter PhotoWorks Japan by Herman Hoeneveld