02
Nov
15

Exhibition: ‘Herb Ritts’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 8th November, 2015

 

Another artist lost too soon to HIV/AIDS. At least we have these fine classics to remember him by. The portrait of Nelson Mandela is especially powerful – tightly cropped, the photographer portrays a man of immense strength and intensity through the hand and the finger, but above all the single eye which contains ageless wisdom.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Herb Ritts. 'Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen, Long Island' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen, Long Island
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation in honor of Malcolm Rogers
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Madonna, Tokyo' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Madonna, Tokyo
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage' 1990

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage' 1990

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Tatjana Veiled Head, Tight View, Joshua Tree' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Tatjana Veiled Head, Tight View, Joshua Tree
1988
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Backflip, Paradise Cove' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Backflip, Paradise Cove
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Pants (Back View), Los Angeles' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Pants (Back View), Los Angeles
1988
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Richard Gere, San Bernardino' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Richard Gere, San Bernardino
1978
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation in honor of Malcolm Rogers
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), flashes back to the ’90s this spring with an evocative exhibition dedicated to the photography of Herb Ritts (1952-2002). Known for his beautifully printed, formally bold and sensual black-and-white images of celebrities and supermodels such as Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, his works often blurred the line between art and commerce. Throughout the ’90s, his photography was inescapable in popular culture – appearing everywhere from magazine covers to music videos and commercials. This exhibition revisits the artist, whose groundbreaking 1996 retrospective at the MFA, Herb Ritts: WORK, remains one of the most highly attended exhibitions in Museum history. Nearly 20 years later, the MFA is taking a second look at his career, which was cut short in 2002 with his death from complications related to AIDS. Along with a selection of music videos and commercials, the exhibition features 52 black-and-white photographs that celebrate the sculpted body and the variable beauty of the human face. Ritts’ expert use of natural light results in dramatic images full of high-contrast lights and darks, as well as softer effects, such as light reflecting off water. Of the works on view, 15 are from a recent gift from the Herb Ritts Foundation – acquired by the MFA in December in honor of Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. This, and previous gifts from Ritts and the Foundation dating back to 2000, allow the Museum to tell the full story of Ritts’ career, and comprise the largest museum holdings of Ritts photographs in the world (248 in total). The exhibition is on view in the MFA gallery named in honor of a gift from the Ritts Foundation – the Museum’s first dedicated solely to photography – and the adjacent Clementine Brown Gallery…

The exhibition explores every aspect of the photographer’s career, and is divided into two sections: one dedicated to the human body and one dedicated to his photographs of celebrity personalities. His approach to the nude pushed the confines of convention. Ritts captured not only beautiful bodies, but also the environment and elements surrounding his set: the Pacific Ocean, desert landscapes, and mountains. Whether photographing a Versace dress, a basketball star, or interpreting classical sculpture through dried, cracked clay on skin – as in Tony with Black Face, Profile, Los Angeles (1986) – Ritts and his photography embody the era. The predominant aesthetic in Ritts’s images is one of strong lines, bold contours and striking shadows. Today, his work appears in museum exhibitions around the globe.

Preferring to shoot during the golden hours of the day – when the sun is at a low angle – Ritts created works that demonstrate not only an expert use of natural light, but the ability to immortalize the subjects in front of his camera. In addition to photography, he also directed 13 music videos and more than 50 commercials throughout his career.  Exploration of the human figure in its idealized form is a recurring theme in his video work, a selection of which is also included in the exhibition on three video screens. Lent by the Herb Ritts Foundation are videos of Madonna’s Cherish (1989), Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game (1991) and commercials dating from 1990-2002. A special MFA playlist on Spotify allows visitors to listen to music as they explore the gallery, and a case of archival materials includes a marked-up contact sheet and magazine spread that shed light on Ritts’ process.

During his career, Ritts forged strong connections with his subjects, many of whom became close friends. Throughout the exhibition visitors can find quotes from some of his sitters, including Cindy Crawford, who said of the artist: “There was something magical about when you stepped in front of his camera and what happened then. This give-and-take, and that’s what makes it fun. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Helmut Newton to Avedon to Penn but probably the images that are the most timeless of me, most of them, were shot by Herb and are some of my favorite images of myself.”

Crawford appears in one of Ritts’ most famous images, Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood (1989). Taken at the end of a long day photographing a fashion editorial assignment for Rolling Stone, the image also includes Stephanie Seymour, Tatjana Patitz, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. Ritts also worked with Turlington on a Gianni Versace advertising campaign, which took them to the dry Mojave Desert lakebed known as El Mirage, where the vast open space gave him a sense of creative freedom. He used the gusts of a rising storm to coax a swath of fabric into an arch over the model’s head in Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage (1990). Ritts’ photographs of celebrities and models appeared on magazine covers including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Interview, Playboy, TIME, Rolling Stone, and Allure.

Ritts had a particular affinity for photographing actors, musicians and cultural icons. The artist that he collaborated with most frequently was Madonna, whose whimsical Madonna, Tokyo (1987) was taken in her hotel when the Who’s That Girl World Tour opened in Japan. Generally, Ritts preferred to capture his subjects in spontaneous, playful moments such as these. “I think that with her, and with other people as well, the big word is trust,” Ritts said. “A person feels they can trust you because they know your reputation and what you’re about. Or they can feel it because over the years a tight relationship develops, as it did with Madonna. You work together and it clicks; you evolve.”

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston website

 

Herb Ritts. 'Michael Jordan, Chicago' 1993

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Michael Jordan, Chicago
1993
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Tony with Black Face, Profile, Los Angeles' 1986

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Tony with Black Face, Profile, Los Angeles 
1986
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Claudia Schiffer, Palmdale' 1992

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Claudia Schiffer, Palmdale
1992
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Christy Turlington, Hollywood' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Christy Turlington, Hollywood
1988
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Mick Jagger, London' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Mick Jagger, London
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Wrapped Torso, Los Angeles' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Wrapped Torso, Los Angeles 
1989
Platinum print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Naomi Campbell, Face in Hand, Hollywood' 1990

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Naomi Campbell, Face in Hand, Hollywood
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation in honor of Malcolm Rogers
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Dizzy Gillespie, Paris' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Dizzy Gillespie, Paris 
1989
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg' 1994

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg 
1994
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Bruce Springsteen (Detail II), New York' 1992

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Bruce Springsteen (Detail II), New York 
1992
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 4.45 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 9.45 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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