A sequence has to sing. It’s not just something to decode and find the true meaning of. I have to feel its harmonies and disharmonies. It’s like a son.
In his photographs, Roe Ethridge uses the real to suggest—or disrupt—the ideal. Through commercial images of fashion models, products, and advertisements, as well as intimate moments from his own daily life, he reveals the fine line between the generic and the personal, merging art-historical genres such as the still life or portrait with the increasingly pervasive image culture of the present.
Born in Miami, Ethridge received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1995. He moved to New York City two years later and began working as a commercial photographer. During this time, he was producing a series that catalogued trees on highway medians, seeking to apply his interest in the typologies of German objective photography to the realities (and mythologies) of the American open road. While working on this project, which he looks back on as an attempt at “tough, smart, conceptual” photography, Ethridge realized that an outtake from a beauty editorial he did for Allure magazine was “as good or better than anything [he] intentionally made as an ‘artist.’” This realization would set in motion a continuous cross-pollination of fine art and applied practice that has come to be the hallmark of Ethridge’s work, and which he often traces back to his fascination with the artistic approaches of Andy Warhol and Lee Friedlander. The results of this hybrid approach were exhibited for the first time in MoMA PS1’s Greater New York in 2000, in which an outtake from the Allure shoot and a photograph of a UPS store that Ethridge were paired together.
In 2005 the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, presented Ethridge’s first solo museum exhibition, Momentum 4: Roe Ethridge, which included close-up photographs of ordinary things—from a young pine tree to a pink ribbon that Ethridge found in his mother’s basement. Identified with what was being called “the new school of synthetic photography,” his work was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, and two years later he was one of four artists selected for the exhibition New Photography 2010 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Ethridge’s photograph Old Fruit (2010)—a deadpan shot of a bowl of rotting produce, its grimy banality contrasting with the airbrushed, hyperbolized glamour of his editorial images. The breadth of Ethridge’s subject matter and style would be showcased further in 2012, in a solo exhibition at Le Consortium, Dijon, France. The show, which subsequently traveled to Museum Leuven, Belgium, included photographs of overflowing ashtrays juxtaposed with outtakes from fashion photo shoots, close-ups of the surfaces of a suburban backyard, a large snake slithering through dry grasses, and other images that refuse to settle into a single narrative.
Ethridge was celebrated with a mid-career survey as part of the FotoFocus Biennial 2016 in Cincinnati. Spanning over fifteen years of his career, Roe Ethridge: Nearest Neighbor traced the (pointedly nonlinear) evolution of his visual languages and image-making techniques—its title referring both to the process of editing digital photographs and to the recurrence of family and friends in his work. The 2017 exhibition Roe Ethridge: Innocence II, at Gagosian in San Francisco, featured a series of large-scale layered photographs printed on brass, as well as several Brass Bins, pedestal-like sculptures containing ordinary objects. Both series attest to the spirit of experimentation that drives Ethridge’s practice, with multiple exposures, transparencies, and reflections synthesizing on the gleaming metallic surfaces—producing chimeric figures out of fashion model Louise Parker, Looney Tunes characters, and even Ethridge himself, pictured at various ages.
Extended through May 30, 2020
February 26–May 30, 2020
976 Madison Avenue, New York
Roe Ethridge and Antwaun Sargent
From his early work for magazines in the 1990s to recent projects with the designer Telfar Clemens, Roe Ethridge has consistently challenged the distinctions between commercial and conceptual photography that long defined the medium. Antwaun Sargent recently caught up with him to discuss the moment that confirmed the artist’s understanding of the photographic image’s potential for boundary-hopping ubiquity in the contemporary era.
Twelve Tracks: Roe Ethridge
Roe Ethridge shares the transportive powers of his playlist “Teenage Chemicals in 1985,” a soundtrack that began playing in those formative years and hasn’t stopped since.
During a conversation with David Rimanelli, Roe Ethridge reflected on photographs that he made during the late 1990s and early 2000s after moving to New York. They spoke as Ethridge was preparing for his exhibition Old Fruit.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2020
The Spring 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #412 (2003) on its cover.
Picasso and Maya: An Interview with Diana Widmaier-Picasso
Diana Widmaier-Picasso curated a presentation at Gagosian, Paris, to celebrate the publication of Picasso and Maya: Father and Daughter at the end of 2019. This comprehensive reference publication explores the figure of Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s beloved eldest daughter, throughout Picasso’s work and chronicles the loving relationship between the artist and his daughter. In this video, Widmaier-Picasso details her ongoing interest in the subject and reflects on the process of making the book.
Self-Reflections: Roe Ethridge Innocence II
Angela Brown considers the wide-ranging photographs included in Roe Ethridge: Innocence II.
A photography portfolio by Roe Ethridge, accompanied by Saul Anton’s The Story of L.
Interview with Roe Ethridge
The Photographers’ Gallery, London
In this video, produced on the occasion of an exhibition of work by artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2011, Roe Ethridge speaks about his photographs of the of the 2000s. Describing his work as “American by default,” he discusses his subject matter and playing with the idea of the visual fugue, or devising sequences of pictures with multiple voices and counterpoints, as in a score or song.
Installation view, Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2011: Roe Ethridge, Ampica P3, London, 2011. Artwork © Roe Ethridge
Gagosian is pleased to announce a new partnership with independent critic Antwaun Sargent. Sargent will collaborate with the gallery on a number of upcoming editorial and curatorial projects, including a series of four gallery exhibitions, as well as related features for the Gagosian Quarterly magazine. He will also be contributing to Gagosian’s online initiatives; his forthcoming interview with Roe Ethridge, focusing on conceptual and aesthetic crossovers between fashion and art photography, will be published in conjunction with Ethridge’s Artist Spotlight feature.
Photo: Darius Garvin
April 29–May 5, 2020
In his photographs, Roe Ethridge uses the real to suggest—or disrupt—the ideal. Through commercial images of fashion models, products, and advertisements, as well as intimate moments from his own daily life, he subverts the residual authority of established artistic genres such as the still life or the portrait, merging them with the increasingly pervasive image culture of the present. The continuous cross-pollination of fine art and applied photography has come to be the hallmark of Ethridge’s practice.
Photo: Vincent Dilio
Roe Ethridge in
New Visions: The Henie Onstad Triennial for Photography and New Media
February 21–September 13, 2020
Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway
Bringing together recent work by thirty-one international artists, the inaugural edition of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter’s triennial foregrounds practices that acknowledge the fluctuating and networked condition of contemporary photography and society. Work by Roe Ethridge is included.
Roe Ethridge, Cat with Yarn Ball, 2017 © Roe Ethridge
Pictures from Another Wall
The Collection of Huis Marseille at De Pont
February 15–August 30, 2020
De Pont Museum, Tilburg, Netherlands
On view in the De Pont Museum’s new wing are roughly one hundred contemporary photographic works from the collection of its sister institution, Huis Marseille in Amsterdam, with an emphasis on acquisitions of the past five years. Work by Roe Ethridge and Andreas Gursky is included.
Roe Ethridge, Annabella for SEPP, 2012 © Roe Ethridge
August 18, 2018–January 14, 2019
Marciano Foundation, Los Angeles
Mad World brought together works from the Marciano collection reflecting the rampant absurdities of contemporary life. Many of the exhibited works address the overwhelming accumulation of information, images, and ideas emanating from our phones, computers, billboards, televisions, and radios. Work by Roe Ethridge, Urs Fischer, and Nate Lowman was included.
Urs Fischer, Green Solace, 16 Handles, Red Solace, 2017 © Urs Fischer. Photo: Mats Nordman
Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography
April 28–December 30, 2018
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Picture Fiction considered the conceptual photography of Kenneth Josephson. In addition to presenting four major series made by the Chicago-based artist roughly between 1960 and 1980, the exhibition highlighted links between Josephson and other contemporary artists working in photography, film, and sculpture, including Roe Ethridge, Ed Ruscha, and Jeff Wall.
Roe Ethridge, Beach Scene (Louis Feraud), 2008, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago © Roe Ethridge