He has participated in major conceptual art events since the 1960s, and his work has been shown in international exhibitions such as Portikus, Frankfurt, 1997, Magasin, Grenoble, 1996, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1985.
Ruppersberg belongs to the first generation of North American artists that used language as a means of expression in its own right, and drew on all the different sectors of the mass media and the consumer society from a critical viewpoint. He has been contributing to the history of conceptual art since the end of the 1960s, but is nonetheless unclassifiable and "elusive both in the literal and the figurative sense". He was inspired by, among others, the Beat Generation and the different movements that sprang up at the same time in California.
Ruppersberg finds inspiration in a variety of literary sources (Oscar Wilde, Voltaire, Thoreau, Allen Ginsberg, etc.) and in American popular culture (detective novels, illustrations, comic strips). But he also makes numerous autobiographical references. The places where he has lived are important to him – Los Angeles and New York, first and foremost, but also European cities such as Münster, Basel, Arnheim and Frankfurt – not forgetting the interpersonal relationships they represent.
Ruppersberg simultaneously explores different operative modes which, in a real sense, embed real acts in particular temporalities (reading, writing, copying, gathering, collecting). One of the fundamentals of his work lies in the transposition and recycling of his own creations, or fragments of them. So there is nothing surprising in the fact that he uses a wide range of techniques: installations, performances, multiples, paintings, sculptures, drawings, books, photography and video. The complexity of the resulting oeuvre encapsulates the experience of creativity and the (re)writing of an entire life.
Exhibition / One of Many – Origins and Variants
One of Many – Origins and Variants shows Ruppersberg as a collector of books, posters, press clippings, obituaries, postcards and films, both educational and documentary.
He subjects each of the elements of this enormous compendium (One of Many) – which has always been a source of material for his works – to a process of artistic adaptation and variation (Origins and Variants), in the sense of decontextualisation. Many copies of multiples are produced without any real "original". And new individual works are hand-made copies of objects from everyday life.
The installation These Fragments… 1968-2003, which was specially produced for the exhibition, gives a panoramic overview of Ruppersberg's work. Its scenography features theatre props he created in 2003, along with multiples and original works, a number of them recent, others going back some time (in particular, fragments from the ephemeral projects Al's Café and Al's Grand Hotel). This installation – a sort of archive of his work – illustrates his point of view on the relationship between art and life, the construction of fiction and the production of reality, public and private spheres.
These Fragments… 1968-2003 is emblematic of a principle that is fundamental to Ruppersberg's practice: creating, assembling, extracting and reassembling both the works themselves and their "components".
He incorporates existing visual and textual elements into new contexts, in a permanent movement of distancing and reappropriation. By creating a specific relationship between each piece and the ensemble, he has built up a huge, open work that is in a constant state of auto-generation.