Gerco De Ruijter

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2004 by Basalt Publishers. 76 pages, with 7 black and white and 46 color images. Includes an essay (in Dutch) by Petran Kockelkoren. All of the images included in the book were made between 1993 and 2003. Most of the prints are square format, in 6×6 or 32×32 dimensions; a few are wide panoramas at 33×79. (Cover shot at right, via Schaden.)

Comments/Context: In the past year or so, I’ve run across the aerial images of Dutch photographer Gerco De Ruijter in several group exhibitions and books, and so when I saw this slim monograph in the ICP bookshop recently, I was happy to bring it home for further study.

The primary difference between De Ruijter’s work and that of classic aerial photographers like William Garnett (recent review here) is derived from a change in overall scale. Instead of taking images out of the window of an airplane (thousands of feet in the air), De Ruijter makes his pictures via a camera mounted to the bottom of a kite (hundreds of feet in the air), triggering the shutter via remote control mechanism. Using this unusual approach, the artist is able to create aerial images that are much more intimate, with a more obvious relationship to the ground (even though the horizon is cropped out), and with a much finer grain of detail. Trees, grasses, waves, sand, rocks, and farm crops all are rendered with minute texture; farm animals look like plastic toys rather than dark spots.

The other main difference is of course in the landscape itself, where the countryside has been carefully altered by the Dutch over the centuries, creating a latticework of ditches and canals that slash through the land. When seen from the air, a pattern of geometric color planes is seen, divided and separated by the straight lines of roads and waterways. Endless rows of greenhouses and tractor furrows further align the unruliness of nature into simple strict forms. Even the trees have often been planted in perfectly symmetical grids.

While it might be a cliche to say that many of De Ruijter’s works hearken back to the precise geometries of Mondrian, it is fair to say that these works are highly structured, even though many depict an unkempt area of nature. While there is clearly an element of chance in the taking of these pictures, De Ruijter has clearly edited the work down to those images that have the strongest formal relationships, compositions that juxtapose fields of color to create contrast and pattern (especially when viewed from a distance).

In general, I like this work, and hope to get beyond seeing a single image in a Dutch themed group show and on to a deeper viewing of more of the work in person some point soon. In the meantime, this small monograph will have to suffice.

Collector’s POV: Gerco De Ruijter is represented by MK Galerie in Rotterdam/Berlin (here). To my knowledge, he does not have New York representation at this point, nor has his work found its way to the secondary markets in any meaningful way, so European gallery retail is the only likely avenue for follow up at this point. De Ruijter’s images would clearly make a nice contemporary addition to a series of aerial works (Garnett, Ruscha, Gowin, Burtynsky, Bridges, et al), to a collection centered on abstraction in found forms, or to an exploration of contemporary approaches to traditional landscape.

Transit Hub:

  • Artist website (here)
  • Borders @MK Galerie, 2008 (here)
  • Nature as Artifice @George Eastman House (here)
  • Dutch Dare (here)
  • H+F Collection (here)

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Read more about: Gerco de Ruijter, MK Galerie, Van Zoetendaal Publishers

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