Your bag is currently empty.
my bag
  • Size:
QTY :
PRICE
remove
The Line Style in Context

The Line is a modern and personal approach to retail. We bring together carefully chosen fashion, home, and beauty items and place them in context through inspiring editorial features and intimate offline shopping experiences. The thematic, seasonal, and handpicked assortments we call Selections offer another way to explore our evolving edit of things you’ll wear, use, and treasure for years to come.

x

Between Knowledge and Desire:
The Visual Signature of Ralph Gibson

By Stephanie Murg

It was a dark and stormy night on the North Atlantic, the kind of conditions that portend doom and spark epiphanies. Ralph Gibson, standing watch on a Navy ship at the age of eighteen, opted for the latter. “I was out there in these tempestuous conditions—thunderous, rainy, sleety, lightning, horrible—and I looked up at the sky and I shouted, in my little voice, ‘I’m going to be a photographer!’” he says, raising a fist for effect. “Well, apparently I’m still shouting. So here we are.”

Ralph Gibson at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York. (Photo by Robin Stein)
Ralph Gibson, MJ in Little Mirror (1980). At top: MJ, Sardinia, from Infanta (1980).

“Here” is nearly six decades later, ensconced in his newish studio in Tribeca, where precise but well-loved modern furniture, neatly organized file boxes, an array of artworks (most acquired in trade from friends such as Eric Fischl, David Salle, and Jasper Johns) art books (Twombly, Duchamp, Noguchi), and brilliant morning light echo Gibson’s own vitality, today underlined by a striped shirt, jeans, and white canvas sneakers. In the days before his new exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery, he appears equally invigorated by the past, present, and future.

“I’ve been around a while,” he says with a smile, dwelling on receiving the fortuitous assignment of photographer upon enlisting in the Navy as a sixteen-year-old high school dropout. “Suddenly, I had a vocation. My destiny had been revealed.” Gibson’s naval service, spent mostly in shipboard darkrooms, amounted to three years of intense photographic study. He later entered the San Francisco Art Institute with the strongest of technical foundations, which helped him to secure a position assisting renowned photographer Dorothea Lange. “I quickly ascertained that she didn’t understand too much about the technical aspects of photography,” he says. “But it was the force of her will that demanded that the medium obey her.”

Rallph Gibson, Tinda (1975)
The body reflects all forms. Almost every shape you could encounter you can find somewhere in the body. Ralph Gibson
Ralph Gibson, Bastienne (1987)

Watching Lange get her masterpieces on film shook Gibson’s faith in technique. “It was the first of a progressive deconstruction of the technical mystique surrounding photography prior to the digital age,” he says. A subsequent stint with Magnum put him off photojournalism (“I wasn’t looking for documentary truth”), but further rounded out his skills, leading to a position assisting Robert Frank. “I worked on a couple of his films, and we drove around Mexico together, across America,” recalls Gibson. “Both Dorothea and Robert stressed the importance of not being traditional, not being a variation on a previously announced theme. I learned from them that I had to be extremely unique.”

Ralph Gibson, Striped Nude (1981)

In one corner of his studio stands a row of framed works bound for Mary Boone, where his latest show, Political Abstraction, opens this Thursday, September 10th. This new series consists of 24 color and black-and-white photographic diptychs: two images are printed on a single sheet, with a wide margin separating and surrounding them. “Juxtaposition” doesn’t do them justice. In one, a shadowed sliver of nude torso shares a page with a Manhattan street corner wrapped in boldly colored, graffiti-whorled plywood. Another pairs a hulking, spade-shaped black form with a man asleep on a darkened airplane, his neck and right shoulder illuminated by a similar shape. “That’s an anchor on a beach,” says Gibson of the former photograph, “and it occurred to me that a black shape would catch a white shadow.”

The concept is rooted not in the visual realm but in the auditory. Gibson is also a musician (when not developing film in the Navy’s darkrooms, he was teaching himself classical guitar) and looked to overtones—harmonics, complex and combinatory—for inspiration. “I realized that the space in between the photographs covered as much content as the photographs themselves, so I evolved my theory of visual overtones,” he says. “But I’m also interested very much in the language of black and white and color—how they interface, how they speak, what does it mean?” Within, between, and among the images—a swoosh of a Zaha Hadid building, a staggered pair of water fountains, a fringed theater curtain—a distinctive approach, a certain way of looking, becomes satisfyingly apparent. “A visual signature is a very important component of any artist’s attempts,” notes Gibson, “and I’m constantly honing mine.”

I’m interested in staying power, and in imbuing content in a photograph. Ralph Gibson
“An absolute photograph defines neither life nor art, rather something between the material and its construction,” writes Ralph Gibson in the monograph published by Lustrum Press that accompanies Political Abstraction, on view from September 10th through October 31st at Mary Boone Gallery in New York. (Photo by Robin Stein)

Between Knowledge and Desire: The Visual Signature of Ralph Gibson

Between Knowledge and Desire:
The Visual Signature of Ralph Gibson

By Stephanie Murg

It was a dark and stormy night on the North Atlantic, the kind of conditions that portend doom and spark epiphanies. Ralph Gibson, standing watch on a Navy ship at the age of eighteen, opted for the latter. “I was out there in these tempestuous conditions—thunderous, rainy, sleety, lightning, horrible—and I looked up at the sky and I shouted, in my little voice, ‘I’m going to be a photographer!’” he says, raising a fist for effect. “Well, apparently I’m still shouting. So here we are.”

Ralph Gibson at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York. (Photo by Robin Stein)
Ralph Gibson, MJ in Little Mirror (1980). At top: MJ, Sardinia, from Infanta (1980).

“Here” is nearly six decades later, ensconced in his newish studio in Tribeca, where precise but well-loved modern furniture, neatly organized file boxes, an array of artworks (most acquired in trade from friends such as Eric Fischl, David Salle, and Jasper Johns) art books (Twombly, Duchamp, Noguchi), and brilliant morning light echo Gibson’s own vitality, today underlined by a striped shirt, jeans, and white canvas sneakers. In the days before his new exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery, he appears equally invigorated by the past, present, and future.

“I’ve been around a while,” he says with a smile, dwelling on receiving the fortuitous assignment of photographer upon enlisting in the Navy as a sixteen-year-old high school dropout. “Suddenly, I had a vocation. My destiny had been revealed.” Gibson’s naval service, spent mostly in shipboard darkrooms, amounted to three years of intense photographic study. He later entered the San Francisco Art Institute with the strongest of technical foundations, which helped him to secure a position assisting renowned photographer Dorothea Lange. “I quickly ascertained that she didn’t understand too much about the technical aspects of photography,” he says. “But it was the force of her will that demanded that the medium obey her.”

Rallph Gibson, Tinda (1975)
The body reflects all forms. Almost every shape you could encounter you can find somewhere in the body. Ralph Gibson
Ralph Gibson, Bastienne (1987)

Watching Lange get her masterpieces on film shook Gibson’s faith in technique. “It was the first of a progressive deconstruction of the technical mystique surrounding photography prior to the digital age,” he says. A subsequent stint with Magnum put him off photojournalism (“I wasn’t looking for documentary truth”), but further rounded out his skills, leading to a position assisting Robert Frank. “I worked on a couple of his films, and we drove around Mexico together, across America,” recalls Gibson. “Both Dorothea and Robert stressed the importance of not being traditional, not being a variation on a previously announced theme. I learned from them that I had to be extremely unique.”

Ralph Gibson, Striped Nude (1981)

In one corner of his studio stands a row of framed works bound for Mary Boone, where his latest show, Political Abstraction, opens this Thursday, September 10th. This new series consists of 24 color and black-and-white photographic diptychs: two images are printed on a single sheet, with a wide margin separating and surrounding them. “Juxtaposition” doesn’t do them justice. In one, a shadowed sliver of nude torso shares a page with a Manhattan street corner wrapped in boldly colored, graffiti-whorled plywood. Another pairs a hulking, spade-shaped black form with a man asleep on a darkened airplane, his neck and right shoulder illuminated by a similar shape. “That’s an anchor on a beach,” says Gibson of the former photograph, “and it occurred to me that a black shape would catch a white shadow.”

The concept is rooted not in the visual realm but in the auditory. Gibson is also a musician (when not developing film in the Navy’s darkrooms, he was teaching himself classical guitar) and looked to overtones—harmonics, complex and combinatory—for inspiration. “I realized that the space in between the photographs covered as much content as the photographs themselves, so I evolved my theory of visual overtones,” he says. “But I’m also interested very much in the language of black and white and color—how they interface, how they speak, what does it mean?” Within, between, and among the images—a swoosh of a Zaha Hadid building, a staggered pair of water fountains, a fringed theater curtain—a distinctive approach, a certain way of looking, becomes satisfyingly apparent. “A visual signature is a very important component of any artist’s attempts,” notes Gibson, “and I’m constantly honing mine.”

I’m interested in staying power, and in imbuing content in a photograph. Ralph Gibson
“An absolute photograph defines neither life nor art, rather something between the material and its construction,” writes Ralph Gibson in the monograph published by Lustrum Press that accompanies Political Abstraction, on view from September 10th through October 31st at Mary Boone Gallery in New York. (Photo by Robin Stein)