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Donna Ruff
Jack Fischer Gallery, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by DeWitt Cheng


Donna Ruff, “Chainlink,” 2019, dye sublimation print, acrylic on felt, 43 x 64"

Continuing through February 15, 2020

The mixed-media works of Miami artist Donna Ruff are timely investigations into our current sociopolitical miasma, more of a dystopia that her undoubtedly ironic title, “Utopia.” Ruff’s works on paper utilize real book pages and printed digital downloads of documents, which she burns, using a computer-guided laser to obliterate portions of the text. These suggest the incendiary results that words can have. Jay McCafferty’s “Solar Burn” series started in the 1970s and continuing to the present, made with a low-tech magnifying glass, anticipates this work.

Her nine-piece modular work, “Fanaticism,” is composed of square pages from an anonymous tract implicitly extolling the classical virtues of reason and moderation. Each square page has a central square cut out and slipped out of place, like a print falling out of its mat. Burned into it are venous root patterns, apertures with brown singed edges. “Dreams 16” and “Dreams 23” present two facing pages from a book on dream interpretation. A rectangle in the middle is burned into symmetrical labyrinths, these reminiscent of Bruce Conner’s inkblot paintings. “The Federalist Papers Undone,” made from Library of Congress downloads, burns out the individual letters from selected pages, creating word stencils, with the shapes surrounded by smoky branching filaments, like the sparks from a Van de Graff generator, only layered and flipped. The Federalist Papers, a series of 85 articles written by founding fathers Hamilton, Madison and Jay to promote ratification of the Constitution, warned against corruption, partisanship and foreign interference.

Also included are the elegant “Frieze” assemblages, which combine burning with geometrical forms and gold leaf to simulate both parchment and mosaic. Three cutout dye sublimation prints use photographic images to address the immigration crisis and freedom of the press. Finally, a pair of flag pieces, with the stars and stripes painted a matte gray on the silvery mylar emergency blankets used in our border detention camps, indict our national lack of reflection.


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