Monday, December 6, 2010

Roe Ethridge, Southern Photographer, Makes Good

Roe Ethridge is having a year to remember in his career as a fine art photographer. His roots are Southern; he was born in Miami and studied photography in Atlanta, where he received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1995. He now lives and works in New York, where he has achieved remarkable success in a very short time.

Ethridge has exhibited in major museums in Atlanta, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City. He has also exhibited his images at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, and various museums and galleries in Paris, London, Berlin, and other European v

Ethridge's website is empty of visual content, perhaps itself a statement, but you can see lots of his work from his part of the Andrew Kreps Gallery website, here, or his part of the Gagosian Gallery, here

Some of his work exhibits what a writer for Frieze Magazine calls his attention to “exorbitantly bland subjects,” which he presents in a way that “undermines that very certitude,” appearing as “little more than the erratic product of an unsettled, expansive attention” which, when “taken together . . . or looked at generally . . .  to bounce off each other, their cumulative effect suggestive rather than illustrative of his fundamental inquiry into our ready assumption that photography will tell us something true.”

Right now, Ethridge's work is part of MOMA's New Photography 2010 exhibition, up through January 10, 2011, including Moldy Fruit, above. This latest work grows out of an examination of the photographic process in its various cultural manifestations, or, as MOMA puts it,

“Drawing upon the descriptive power of photography and the ease with which it can be accessed, duplicated, and recombined,  [Ethridge] orchestrates visual fugues, juxtaposing, for example, a picture in which he has superimposed an image of a plain white plate, grabbed from Bed Bath and Beyond’s website, on a checkered Comme des Garçons scarf . . . . . The pictures acquire their meaning from the salient way in which they have been shuffled, sequenced, and laid out in nonlinear narrative structures. Combining and recombining already recontextualized images, Ethridge at once subverts the photographs’ original roles and renews their signifying possibilities.”

Ethridge said of his Whitney Biennial portfolio, “The idea is not to render a perfect illustration of a coastal-themed photo project, but something more like a fugue form with multiple voices that pull the threads through this coastal thematic. There could be any kind of counterpoint—formal, conceptual to content. It’s like a plate spinner. You want to keep all of them going at one time." 

Jason Kaufman, writing in the Biennial catalogue, says Ethridge has been influenced by the work of Thomas Ruff, Michael Schmidt, Christopher Williams, and other artists “who combine photographs that veer from the biographical to a metanarrative conceptual mode. . . . By arranging his work in various sequences, contexts, and installations, Ethridge reveals the mutability of his images, the possibility that the original intention with which a picture was created might fall away over time, allowing it to take on new meaning. We are encouraged each time to examine these images and their interrelations anew.”

I've quoted from several commentaries on Ethridge's work that are couched in the language of aesthetic theory because I'm trying to come to terms with his work's distinctive combination of the elegant and the banal, the commercial and the conceptual, with Ethridge's success as a photographer and his concern with Objects of Southern Desire, as here.

Or this:

Anyway, Ethridge has now been shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for 2011, awarded annually by London's Photographer's Gallery, along with fellow American Jim Goldberg, Germany’s Thomas Demand, and Israel’s Elad Lassry. This prize is worth £30,000 and recognizes "a living photographer, of any nationality, who [in the past year] has made the most significant contribution, in exhibition or publication format, to the medium of photography in Europe."

High cotton, indeed, for Ethridge to be in. He's definitely a Southern Photographer We Admire. Will keep you posted as to the progress of the Deutsche Börse competition.

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