Natural frequency

Review by Luz Sepúlveda, Art Nexus, issue #81, August, 2011

The photographs by Oswaldo Ruiz (Monterrey, Mexico, 1977), exhibited at the Galería Luis Adelantado in Mexico City, are imposing more for their quality as objects than for being representative of something else. Ruiz portrays landscapes that appear to be staged. The images are constructed with a tangible corporeality based on volumes and shadows illuminated with stage lighting.
In its physical construction over an acrylic sheet, the photographic paper is treated as if it were canvas. The matte surface has subtle, almost imperceptible, textures that are nonetheless velvety, a characteristic that enables a richer emotional impact when observing the figures gathered under the intense lighting. A tension emanates from Ruiz’s photographs in the way they appear to invade the space beyond the limits of the frame. In other words, both the figures posing in the environment inside the image, and the person observing the work, see the nature of their interaction altered by an irrepressible and powerful attraction that is created between them. Despite the calm manner with which the objects appear to be exhibited on the stage, it is possible to perceive a certain vibration that can solely be interpreted as affective dynamism; namely, a sensation produced when we experience an emotion –an aesthetic one in this case.
The exhibition is based on the concept of Natural Frequency, a term used in mechanical engineering that refers to the degree of freedom (or limitation) of movement of certain structures as they withstand the weight of other constructions. Thus, aside from the physical force that emanates from the portrayed objects, Ruiz’s photographs convey vigor through the tension generated by the perfect balance between moving and resonant forces. The resulting effect is a thorough and joyful experience before the strangely, and apparently motionless, images that, nonetheless, are propelled by a constant harmonious vibration. The series that depicts the enormous cylindrical stone towers, built in Ireland between the Eighth and Twelfth Centuries, capture the moment when the imposing vertical structures, surrounded by trees, shadows, and the outlines of graves, constructed around it, were erected. An intense but never halcyonic calm can be perceived; a silence about to burst as result of a sensation of volatility generated by the light contrasts on the figures that had been kept in almost complete darkness. An image that stands out from the other tower images, is one that cannot be accessed at night given its location, inside the ‘sacred island,’ as it can only be visited during the day. Ruiz depicts the island with the tower placed in the distance¿its visibility almost forbidden, in nearly total darkness, where only the shadows of the vegetation that surrounds the construction can be perceived.
Another room contains a group of photographs of magueys that, although already dead, still stand, and will stand for a long time, although the plants are sterile, as their stems will continue to grow. The dark backgrounds in the image accentuate the illuminated sections of the millenary plant that exhales its last breath as it basks in the glory of having accomplished the mission of giving life to its seed-dispersing stem. While there is an analogy between the vertical construction of the round towers and the stems, in that the towers were once also a receptacle that sheltered life, human life, or that used their over 98-feet height as vantage points from which to guard, or to storage seeds and food. On the other hand, the stem vibrates with the imperceptible movement generated by its slow growth, but it is portrayed at the point that marks the culmination of its existence. Both forms reach toward the sky, as an almost sinister environment engulfs them in a darkness partially illuminated by the artificial lighting Ruiz relies on to impregnate the portrayed objects.
The work of a video that appears to stay unaltered grabs our attention during the walk through the exhibition. From a fixed point of view, it shows the interior of an Irish prison in Kilmainham that was built in the Sixteenth Century and was reconstructed three centuries later, following the high-security Panopticon prison model designed by Jeremy Bentham. It is a design that ensures that inmates are watched at all times without them knowing that they are being observed. During the six-minute long video, in loop, the hallway lights are gradually dimmed until the central lobby, surrounded by the cells that today house a museum, is left in total darkness; only to be lighted again at once, as the dimming process is reinitiated, when the uninterrupted video completes a cycle.
Set as part of an installation, another video shows a decorative garden behind bars that, nonetheless, moves freely and is accompanied by the almost monotonous voice of a female singer who, with a sustained note, is able to generate a resonance that gives the sensation of continuous movement in unison with the back-and-forth movement of the plants that are placed along a wall that raises more than 33 feet high.
There is consistency and cohesiveness among the works exhibited in Natural Frequency. The visual quality of the photography gives the work a certain pictorial appeal, while the constant vibration keeps it in perfect equilibrium.







Monica King Contemporary

39 Lispenard Street, East Entrance
New York, NY 10013, USA
T: +1 516 888 1990


Patricia Conde

Gral. Juan Cano 68
San Miguel Chapultepec I Secc.
Mexico City, 11850, Mexico
T: +52 (55) 5290 6345


Heart Ego

Lázaro Garza Ayala 511, Casco Urbano, 66230
San Pedro Garza García, N.L., Mexico
T: +52 (81) 8448 9408

Oswaldo Ruiz was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, in 1977. An early interest in space led him to study architecture at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL), a profession that he quickly abandoned in order to focus on photography. Interested in broadening his understanding of the image, he completed graduate studies in psychoanalysis, philosophy and art history at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Later, in order to advance his explorations of visual media, he enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at Central Saint Martins College in London. From 2015 and 2018 he was the studio assistant of the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide.

Using the darkness of night as material for his photographic work, between 2004 and 2012 he took pictures of different places along the highways around Monterrey: gas stations, convenience stores, bus stops and strange, illuminated buildings. This led him to photograph the demolished houses in the municipality of Anáhuac, a border area where his family was originally from and that had since been abandoned because of migration to the U.S. after NAFTA. Along these same lines, and as a result of artistic residencies in Dublin, Berlin and Santiago de Chile, he developed different projects with which, in a sort of archeology of the everyday, he explored the dualities of light and darkness, consciousness and the unconscious, life and death, in his series of medieval towers, ephemeral constructions and anti-monuments. The last of these series, about quiotes (the flower produced by the agave plant before it dies), was shot in the state of Oaxaca. One of his last projects Welcome to Paradise (2013-2017), shown in Centro de la Imagen in 2017 and Fototeca de Nuevo León in 2018, he portrays different enclaves of Latin American cities to deconstruct the idea of the city and extract images of some archetypes that inhabit it, where a dialogue between ruins and science fiction spaces is created. For this project he photographed from the port of Valparaíso in Chile to the Dry port of Jalisco, across Mexico City, Monterrey, the zone of The plain in flames of Rulfo, Barra de Navidad, Colombia and Dominican Republic.

He has had over a dozen solo exhibitions, including: Nostalgia de catástrofes (Patricia Conde gallery, 2018), Welcome to Paradise (Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City 2017 and Fototeca de Nuevo León 2018); Espacio que cabe entre dos tiempos (Galería Heart Ego, Monterrey, 2016); Anudamientos (Museo de la Ciudad de México, Mexico City, 2013); Frecuencia natural (Galería Luis Adelantado, Mexico City, 2011); Oswaldo Ruiz 2002-2009 (Fototeca Nuevo León, Monterrey, 2010) and Last Night (Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2010).

He has also participated in over fifty group shows, including: Constitución mexicana 1917- 2017. Imágenes y voces (Galería del Palacio Nacional, Mexico City, 2017); Tlaxotlali: Alternancia de ciclos (Casa del Lago, UNAM, Mexico City, 2017); the XII FEMSA Biennial / Poéticas del decrecimiento, ¿cómo vivir mejor con menos? (Centro de las Artes, Parque Fundidora, Monterrey, 2016); Develar y detonar. Fotografía en México ca. 2015 (Centro Cibeles, Madrid and Centro Nacional de las Artes, Mexico City, 2015); Existe todo lo que tiene nombre (Camera Works, San Francisco, California, 2015); Dirty, Poorly Dressed and Filled with Love (Erehwon Center for the Arts, Quezon City, Philippines, 2013); El vértigo de la abundancia (Casa del Lago, unam, Mexico City, 2013); Basado en una historia verdadera (Museo Salvador Allende, Santiago de Chile, 2012); Umbrales (Instituto de México en París, Paris, 2010); Registro 02. Mirar por segunda vez (Museo marco, Monterrey, 2009) and the XIII Bienal de Fotografía (Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, 2009).

His work has received awards both nationally and internationally, including the Acquisition prize of the XVIII Photography Biennial of Centro de al Imagen (2018), SIVAM prize (2006), the Petrobras-Buenos Aires Photo Prize (2006), and the Acquisition Prize at the 2nd Bienal de Artes Visuales de Yucatán (2004). Recently he published the book Welcome to Paradise (La Caja de Cerillos Ediciones and Fundación BBVA Bancomer, Mexico City, 2017). His work has also been published in many books, magazines and catalogues, and shown at the international fairs Madrid Foto (2011 and 2012) and Paris Photo (2006 and 2007). Since 2018 he is a Member of the National System of Art Creator, of FONCA.


Master in Fine Arts, Central Saint Martins College, London, UK.


Postgraduate courses in Contemporary Art and Psychoanalysis. Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain.


Architecture, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Monterrey, Mexico.


Member of the National System of Art Creators, of the System of Support for Creation and Cultural Projects, Ministry of Cultur, Mexico.


Acquisition prize in the XVIII Photography Biennial at Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, Mexico.

Member of the National System of Art Creators, FONCA, Mexico.


FORCA Northeast grant to do a residency in Santiago de Chile.


Special Mention on the XIII Photo Biennial, Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, Mexico.


First Prize SIVAM, by the International Society of Values of Mexican Art, Mexico City, Mexico.

Second Prize Petrobras-Buenos Aires Photo 2006.

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Special Mention on the VII Monterrey Biennial FEMSA, Monterrey, Mexico.


Acquisition Prize in the II National Biennial of Visual Arts of Yucatán, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.


First Prize in the XXIV Reseña de la Plástica Nuevoleonesa, Monterrey, Mexico.


Museo de Arte de Sonora (MUSAS), Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.


Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City, Mexico.


The Museum of Contemporary Art of Monterrey (MARCO).

Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami, USA.

Fototeca de Nuevo Léon, Monterrey, Mexico.


Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, UK.


FEMSA Collection, Monterrey, Mexico.