Gagosian Gallery is pleased to present Roger Ballen's inaugural exhibition in the United States featuring many of his photographs from the award-winning book, Outland (Phaidon Press, 2001). Ballen, a New York native, has been living in Johannesburg, South Africa since 1974. Trained as a geologist, Ballen has been photographing for over 25 years, mostly in remote areas outside of Johannesburg. Working among a population so clearly overlooked and invisible, they face Ballen's camera with both the freshness of children and the faces of hard experience. This will be the gallery's first exclusively photographic exhibition in the penthouse galleries at 980 Madison Avenue.
A wiry, older man with a pixie haircut bends over a bed, imitating a spider. A scrap collector stands on a disintegrating foam mattress, contemplating a globe –an Atlas of the junkyard with a sleeping Doberman at his feet. A short and stern security guard poses in David Hockney glasses, his nightstick upright as his girlfriend, her eyes and face broadened by even thicker lenses, sits complacently on the edge of their bed. In Roger Ballen's photographs, the sitters are fundamentally linked to their environment, gods born from the walls, floors and furniture. Ballen's photographs convey sitters whose unique disposition in life seems to have sculpted their bodies. However, they also rely upon an exquisitely rigorous formal approach, mixing a draftsman's eye for line and detail with the documentary photographer's obsession for veracity with universal appeal. Included will be portraits, interiors and still-lifes executed between the mid-1980s and today, many of which have never before been exhibited or published.
Ballen has been short-listed for the prestigious Citigroup Private Bank Photography Prize, to be awarded in London in February 2002. Outland recently won The Best Photographic Book of the Year award at PhotoEspana 2001. Ballen's photographs are the subjects of four previous volumes including Platteland, Images of a Rural South Africa and Cette Afrique là. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Kunsthaus, Zürich; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris and others.