Richard Ross: Museology Triptychs

ShowingOctober 13, 1989 - November 19, 1989

This exhibition is second in a series celebrating the hundred and 51st anniversary of photography. Santa Barbara-based photographer Richard Ross has spent the past twelve years prowling through the exhibition and storage spaces of art, history, and natural science museums around the world. He has documented eye-catching objects, individually or in suggestive juxtapositions, ranging from orphaned fragments of classical statuary to tattered taxidermy.


His recent color-coupler photographs on view here have been created with a small, primitive, optically faulty child’s plastic camera, one which museum guards observe with benign indifference. Ross snaps details of oil paintings, often by lesser-known artists, which he then crops, rescales, and rearranges into mysterious, drawn-out “narratives” in three parts. One writer has called these triptychs “a dumb show of oblique gestures”; the artist himself describes them as “a soap opera of art history.” 

Their dark and smoldering drama recalls some of the conventions of earlier Romantic art, but the deft quoting and reassembling from a variety of historical moments is entirely contemporary. The fragmentary images are both familiar and elusive, like dream debris, hovering just outside the range of identifiability. The eye travels from left to right, imaginatively reading or projecting meaningful and sequential connections among the parts. 

Public Events: 

The artist will present a slide lecture on the development of his work and the adventures incurred in its pursuit on Sunday, November 12, 1989 at 3pm in the Bartos Theater (lower level of this building). Admission is free. 

Publication available (ISBN 0-938437-28-3). An illustrated brochure with an essay by New York-base artist and writer Gerard Haggerty.