"Over the past three decades, Mark Ruwedel has examined the intersections of representation, cultural memory, and the shifting perceptions of space. His work is an epic account of North American civilization, extending from topologies of urban architecture to large-scale projects such as 'The Ice Age' and 'Westward the Course of Empire'.
Ruwedel represents landscape as a site where radically different scales of time intertwine. Picturing the earth as an enormous historical archive, he describes his work as 'an inquiry into the histories, cultural and natural, of places that reveal the land as both a field of human endeavor and an agent of historical processes.' Ruwedel spotlights traces of human activity—whether an ancient footpath in Death Valley or a rotting wooden trestle abandoned after the failure of the Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern Railroad—in relation to geographic and geological upheavals that have shaped the earth’s surface. Ruwedel thus historicizes nature’s transformation of human structures into relics on their way to obliteration." (publisher's note)
About the photographer (*1954 in Bethlehem, PA):
“I am interested in revealing the narratives contained within the landscape and am most attracted to places where the land reveals itself as being both an agent of geological processes and a field of human endeavor.“ (M.R.)
Ruwedel received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kutztown State College, Kutztown, Pennsylvania in 1978, and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Concordia University in Montreal, Québec in 1983.
Initially Ruwedel wanted to be a painter. His journey into photography was gradual. While aware of Walker Evans in high school, he paid closer attention to his photographs as a painting student at Kutztown State College and purchased a copy of American Photographs when he graduated from there in the mid 1970s.
In addition to his emerging interest in the work of Walker Evans, two other experiences influenced the shape of Ruwedel’s future practice. The first was viewing, as an undergraduate, the film, 'Spiral Jetty', Robert Smithson’s iconic 1970 land art piece. Ruwedel later described the film and Smithson's entire body of work as having “…made a deep and lasting impression on me, influencing the way I think about such things as landscape, sculpture, and time…”
The second experience was his encounter with the 'New Topographics'. Although he already knew and admired Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams’s photographs, he had first heard the term New Topographics used in relation to his own work in graduate school in the early 1980s. The discovery of these deceptively empty-looking photographs was important to Ruwedel’s articulating what it was he wanted to say in his art work for two reasons: they made it clear that “the landscape was a suitable place for social inquisition” and it marked one of “…first instances of the kind of art photography that generated interest in the larger contemporary art world”.
The desert has been a source of enduring interest to Mark Ruwedel who searches both its uninhabited spaces and its cluttered areas for evidence of human presence. In the series Crossings Ruwedel follows the paths of people who are either fugitives from justice and society, or illegal immigrants seeking better lives. This series shows the landscape littered with objects discarded by the travelers; empty water bottles, clothing, baby carriers, and other personal things. In Crossing #14 an abandoned Guatemalan passport lies on the ground in proximity to bits of plastic bags tangled in the dry brush.
Mark Ruwedel has taught at the California State University in Long Beach, California; Concordia University in Montreal, Québec; and at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"Mark Ruwedel (born 1954, Bethlehem, PA) first became interested in photography while studying painting at Kutztown State College, Pa., (BFA, 1978). In 1980 he moved to Montreal to pursue graduate studies in photography at Concordia University (MFA, 1983). While at Concordia, he started working with the view camera and also began his teaching career, which continues to this day. After graduation, Ruwedel spent time in both New York City and the Seattle area before returning to Montreal to teach full time until 2000.
Throughout the 1980s, Ruwedel honed his craft through projects such as “Mont Royal” (acquired by CCA, Montreal) and “Terre des Hommes” in Montreal (collected by the CMCP), a series of landscapes on the British Columbia coast, and a large survey of cinema architecture across North America which was exhibited at the Cinematheque Quebecoise and the Mona Bismark Foundation in Paris. He also began his association with Galerie Art 45, Montreal.
In the 1990s, Ruwedel began his extensive travels to photograph and pursue his interests in the contemporary landscape. Two projects, “The Hanford Stretch” and “The Italian Navigator”, focused on the history of nuclear weapons. Both became book works, in 1993 and 2001, respectively. Following those works, he developed three large scale projects which occupied him for more than a decade: 'The Ice Age', which considers the traces of material culture in the context of geological time; “Pictures of Hell”, an inventory of places named for Hell or the Devil, and 'Westward the Course of Empire', a study of the land forms created by railroad building in the American and Canadian West. Aspects of these projects were supported by Canada Council 'A' grants awarded in 1999 and 2001 and works from them have been collected by important museums: the Metropolitan, NY; National Gallery of Canada; National Gallery, Washington; San Francisco MOMA; and Tate Modern, London, among many others.
In 2002, Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, organized a survey of these three bodies of work which traveled to nine venues across Canada and was accompanied by the book, 'Written on the Land'. In 2008, the Yale Art Gallery published 'Westward' as a monograph. 'Pictures of Hell' (Ram Publishing and Alaska Press, 2014).
In the summer of 2000 Ruwedel was Guest Faculty at NSCAD, Halifax. He began living part time in Vancouver during this period and left Concordia to teach at California State University, Long Beach, in 2002. He maintains a second residence in Refuge Cove, BC.
Since moving to California, Ruwedel has identified new subjects that continue his interest in the landscape and the nature/culture dynamic, photographing in both black-and-white and color. As a result of an artist’s residency in Joshua Tree, he began photographing abandoned houses and other evidence of failed attempts to live in harsh environments. One resulting series, “Crossing”, presents the detritus left by illegal border crossers; it was featured in “Exposed”, SFMOMA and Tate, 2010. “Desert Houses” and the related “Dusk” series is currently being prepared for publication in Germany. Selections from both groups were included in the National Gallery of Canada’s 2012 Biennial.
Ruwedel exhibits regularly in both North America and Europe. In addition to Art 45, he is currently represented by Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica, Yossi Milo Gallery, NY, and Francoise Paviot in Paris. In the past two years he has had solo exhibitions at all four of these galleries.
'Written on the Land' (2002),
Dieser in Deutschland noch nicht so bekannte kanadische Fotograf Mark RUWEDEL arbeitet schon seit den 80ern als Landschaftsfotograf und Dozent.
Nach der Begegnung mit Fotografien von Walker EVANS entschied er sich, sich stärker der Fotografie zu widmen. Außerdem beeinflusste ihn das filmische Werk von Robert SMITHSON stark, hier insbesondere der Film 'Spiral Jetty'.
Der Begriff der 'New Topographics' war ihm zunächst unbekannt, obwohl ihm die Arbeiten von Robert ADAMS und Lewis BALTZ geläufig waren. Erst als der Begriff mit seinen eigenen Arbeiten in Zusammenhang gebracht worden war, wurde er auch Ruwedel geläufig.
Wenn man sich RUWEDELs Arbeiten und seine bisher veröffentlichten Titel - z.B. 'Westward. The course of empire' - anschaut, denkt man an besonders an Robert ADAMS' 'Prärie'-Arbeiten oder andere Titel, wie z.B.'Gone'.
Der hier angebotene Band ist eine anlässlich der Verleihung des 'ScotiaBank Photography Award' erschienen Monografie, die den kompletten Überblick über sein Schaffen gibt.
Bisherige Veröffentlichungen von Mark RUWEDEL sind:
'Written on the Land' (2002),