b. 1952 New York, NY; Lives and works in New York, NY
Clifford Ross (b. 1952 New York, NY) is a photographer and multimedia artist perpetually on the forefront of inventing and reinventing both traditional and new media. With an eye on the sublime and ecclesiastical experiences of nature, Ross pushes the boundaries of his chosen medium in his effort to create transformative art that translates for his viewer the magnitude of his subject. In the 1990s, he created the high resolution film camera, the R1, and he continues to develop printing methods and other technological firsts in the photographic and moving image field. “I am always looking for the fullest expression of my conception and will follow it past any sane point,” Ross explains. “Over and over again, invention is part of creativity.”
A cornerstone of Ross’s technically pioneering career is his dedicated study of Mount Sopris in Colorado. These images—captured by the R1 camera system which he invented using military aerial film and a unique digital post-production process—push the “reality quotient” of the photographic medium, creating images that open the tiniest details in the vast landscape to the most stringent scrutiny. The sheer scale and resolution of these works are designed to create a lived experience for the viewer, who is able to contemplate the majesty of the Colorado mountain as if they were standing in front of it.
Ross began his subsequent well-known Hurricane series in 1996, marking a shift in his practice towards observing the forms and movements of water. He captured striking ocean waves by wading into the surf—while tethered to shore—during severe storms on the East Coast. The resulting black and white photographs translate the power and dynamism of waves into still images, their hyperrealism nearly rendering nature abstract.
He has furthered this fascination with water by using two new mediums in his Wood Waves and Digital Waves works. Wood Waves further the abstraction of the original Hurricane series by incorporating natural wood grains into the image, while also exploring the possibilities of the photographic print. Ross utilizes an innovative technique of digitally printing images onto carefully selected panels of maple veneer, contrasting the texture and pattern of the maple with the foam and spray of the wave. In its raw form, wood is a material rarely associated with photography, but here it realizes the tension between water and land.
Digital Waves are composed of LED walls that feature dramatic, computer-generated videos inspired by hurricane waves, as Ross found video recording an insufficient means to capture the fluid movement of swelling and breaking. Combining advanced computer modeling and light-based animation, each Digital Wave contains millions of individual dots.
Ross received his BA in Art and Art History from Yale University in 1974. He lives and works in New York, NY.
In 2015, MASS MoCA presented Landscape Seen & Imagined, a mid-career survey of Ross’s large-scale photography and Digital Waves along with the publication of two fully illustrated companion volumes, Hurricane Waves and Seen and Imagined. In 2017, Parrish Art Museum on Long Island presented Light | Waves, a solo exhibition of Ross’s Wood Waves and Digital Waves. This was the first time that the museum allowed an artist to utilize their highway-facing facade, an occasion for which Ross made two 100 foot long Digital Wave LED walls. Ross was also included in New Territory: Landscape Photography Today at the Denver Art Museum in 2018.
In the fall of 2019, his work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, and in 2021, Sightlines, the first major traveling exhibition of Ross’ work was organized and originated at the I.M. Pei designed Portland Museum of Art in Maine. He has further been the subject of exhibitions at The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA (2021); Remai Modern, SK (2019); Parrish Art Museum, NY (2017); BRIC House, NY (2015); Zhejiang Art Museum, CN (2015); Austin Museum of Art, TX (2009); Yale University Art Gallery, CT (2012); J. Paul Getty Museum, CA (2012); Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY (2011); MADRE/Museo Archeologico Nazionale, IT (2009), and the George Eastman House, NY (2005).
Ross’s work is held in the public collections of International Center of Photography, NY; J. Paul Getty Museum, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, MA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; and Yale University Art Gallery, CT, among others.
Seen & Imagined: The World of Clifford Ross
Clifford Ross: Hurricane Waves
Hurricane Waves: Clifford Ross
Through The Looking Glass: Clifford Ross