New York City.- Stux Gallery is pleased to announce, “Wonder,” their 4th and latest exhibition of large-scale digital-composite photographic works by Dutch artist Ruud van Empel. Van Empel creates photo-collages by meticulously stitching together fragments taken from an archive of thousands of images the artist photographs himself. Upon viewing the pristinely rendered images, however, no obvious trace of van Empel’s Photoshop technique is evident. The viewer is instead drawn into van Empel’s subtly conflicting worlds which simultaneously appear impossibly illusory and undeniably hyper-real. Portrayed as children alone, in pairs, or large groups, van Empel’s subjects seem to be held captive in tantalizingly magical moments of sexualized innocence. Locating his subjects in various scenes of wilderness or minimal quotidian environments, they appear lost in a liminal state between youth and adulthood, psychologically invoking the kinds of “in-between” subjects captured in, for instance, Rineke Dijkstra’s photographs of adolescents. Van Empel’s Generation series contains three different photographic works, each a panoramic view of what would appear as an otherwise ordinary class photo of a group of a few dozen young students. Each photograph, however, presents the uneasy reality of a seemingly mono-cultural student body. In one, an entire class of presumably Jewish children (most of whom wear the traditional kippah) is portrayed; another is composed entirely of black children and a third consists almost entirely of white children.
Van Empel’s images tackle the problem of representation by over-representing. Van Empel offers hyperbolized representations of childhood and identity (race, gender, sexuality). One may notice that van Empel’s photographs contain almost no depth of field. With this flattening out—everything is in focus—background and foreground appear equally detailed; context is replaced with fantasy, and the original photographic subject elides with its new function as icon. In van Empel’s work appearance is but one component within a complex of relations completing the connection between image and reality. Van Empel’s viscerally seductive photo-collages are most powerful as metaphor. They compel us to consider the entangled problematic of identity as a collage of forces, “race,” for example, as beyond a purely socially-produced phenomenon secondary to class distinctions (to paraphrase the traditional Marxian and Frankfurt School lines of thought), while outside the construal of “essences” thought to belong to particular ethnically-related groups. Art historian Maartje van den Heuvel has argued, “Ruud van Empel is not primarily concerned with whether the portrayed people are black or white,” but the artist “finds himself in the socially charged position of a white man who portrays blacks.” The situation is transposed by moving the work of the Dutch artist to the context of an exhibition in the U.S. where contemporary issues of race rely less on migration as such and have more to do with historical social policy and current economic conditions.
Born in 1958 in Breda, The Netherlands, Ruud van Empel lives and works in Amsterdam. Van Empel studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Sint Joost Breda. Since the late 1990s, van Empel has appeared in solo and group exhibitions in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. His work appears in the permanent collections of the French National Foundation for Modern Art (Paris), Museum of photographic Arts (San Diego), Generali Foundation (Vienna), Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and CB Collection (Tokyo). This year in addition to solo exhibitions at Stux Gallery (New York) and Paris Beijing Photo Gallery (Beijing), a major retrospective of van Empel’s work will be presented at the Groninger Museum (The Netherlands). visit the artist’s website at web.ruudvanempel.nl
The Stux Gallery concentrates on exhibiting mid-career, emerging and well-established artists ranging from painting and photography to sculpture, installation, and performance artwork. The thrust of Stux Gallery’s overall program is to cover a broad spectrum of artists from the United States, Europe, the Far East, Australia, Asia, and Africa whose work shares an interest in challenging the boundaries of genre and medium, often with a deeply conceptual bent, always with an aesthetically rewarding engagement with the material and formal presentation of the work. Originally founded more than twenty-five years ago by Stefan and Linda Stux in Boston in 1980, Stux Gallery first established its international profile in 1986 at its New York gallery on Spring Street in SoHo. The gallery’s success was recognized early on, with enthusiastic reviews of its emerging artists in the national and international art press, receiving the New York Times’ year-end “Best of New York,” several years in a row. In this early phase of the gallery, the program emphasized development and promotion of gifted young artists including by now internationally famous artists such as Vik Muniz, Fabian Marcaccio, Lawrence Carroll, Elaine Sturtevant, Doug and Mike Starn and Andres Serrano among others. Relocating from SoHo to Chelsea early on in 1996, Stux Gallery continued this distinctive aesthetic program, introducing noteworthy artists that have since become international stars to the international art scene, such as Inka Essenhigh. More recently, the gallery has been representing additional mid-career and senior artists, such as Dennis Oppenheim, Shimon Okshteyn, Orlan, Kuno Gonschior, Zigi Ben-Haim, Tracey Moffatt, Margaret Evangeline and Joseph Zehrer. This program has been balanced with ongoing interest in discovering exciting young talent working in a variety of media, including Aaron Johnson, Heide Trepanier, Anna Jóelsdóttir, Thordis Adalsteinsdottir, James Busby, Dean Monogenis and Don Porcella. The gallery’s historical connections to photography are underscored by Ruud van Empel, Iké Udé, Markus Wetzel, Suellen Parker and Lydia Venieri. Throughout the years the Gallery has fostered international relationships and collaborations over the years with an array of international galleries. Visit the gallery’s website at www.stuxgallery.com