Our latest Artist You Need To Know is someone who – prior to studying at the San Francisco Art Institute – had worked with both Robert Frank and Dorothea Lange: Ralph Gibson would also study photography during his tenure in the U.S. Navy. His books of collected photographs are what he’s most well known for, and Gibson’s “images often incorporate fragments with erotic and mysterious undertones, building narrative meaning through contextualization and surreal juxtaposition.”
Gibson has attained numerous awards, including several Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), Berlin, and honourary doctorates from both the University of Maryland and Ohio Wesleyan University. A full list can be seen here, at this site: there’s also a very extensive archive that we encourage you to explore, too.
Born in California, Gibson moved to New York City in 1969 and founded Lustrum Press to both facilitate and have artistic control over the publication of his images (Lustrum published Larry Clark’s controversial book Tulsa in 1971).Since his first collection of photographs titled The somnambulist : photographs was published in 1970, Gibson has published nearly twenty volumes of his images. These span, in subject matter, from Nude (2012, from Taschen) to Brazil (2005) to Sacred Land (2020). In conversation with Blind Magazine in January 2021, Gibson offered the following: “If you know how to photograph architecture, and if you know how to photograph the human figure, the nude, what you’ve learned from those two subjects can teach you how to photograph anything.”
Gibson’s work can be found in many important collections, including the International Center of Photography, J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Whitney Museum of American Art and the International Photography Hall of Fame, St. Louis. Since the early 1970’s Gibson has been exhibiting around the world (appropriately, as many of his images are specific to places, such as his previously cited work Sacred Land, where he uses his lens to explore contemporary Israel). Again, his site offers information and some enjoyable installation images of his prolific record.
Critic and curator Robert Enright wrote about Gibson’s work that “[w]hat matters is the impeccable drama and clarity of the image, its fusion of textures and tonalities…an improbable visual intercourse between the casual and the composed.” Gibson is a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France (only given to those who have made significant contribution to the arts) and his work has been displayed in more than 150 venues worldwide. Ralph Gibson lives and works in New York.