He Roger Ballen in Johannesburg The exhibition will be on view at the Standard Bank Gallery until January 31, 2023. In this mini-retrospective, internationally renowned artist and photographer Roger Ballen invites us to explore Johannesburg transformed through his aesthetics, reshaped by his conscious mind, and subconscious, and shaped by years of experience. in photography Born in New York and resident in Johannesburg since 1982, Ballen has made the metropolis the exclusive place of his creative production.
Coming after seminal works like Childhood (1979), Town (1986) and Field (1994), Ballen was no longer touring the field and his style changed. He placed additional emphasis on the wall as a kind of canvas, rather than a backdrop, from which various subaltern characters interact with animals and accessories such as pipes, cables, crosses, wires, and masks. Where previously images of him, haunting as they were, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, these images are moving into the realms of fiction.
Balls outland (2001) represented a seismic shift in Ballen’s work, seeing him abandon his singular approach to documentary photography, which had synthesized only the essential elements of such virtuosos as Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and André Kertész. The body of work spanning from 1994 to 2000 saw Ballen favor an unpredictable theatricality that sought to transform reality with the camera.
“It wasn’t clear if the people were acting, if I was directing, or if they were directing and I was taking the pictures,” he says of the ambiguity that drove his process. “What was going on in those photographs started to get a little bit darker.” outland it points to the fusion of various elements towards a new aesthetic, one that the artist would eventually name ‘Ballenesque’. the video to outlandProduced in 2015 with Ben Jay Crossman, it introduces us to Stan, a reprisal of the central character of Ballen’s debut feature. bad wind (1972).
Ballen’s later work featured fewer and fewer humans until they disappeared from the images entirely, making room for drawings, animals, a variety of props, and dismembered dolls. Chamber of Shadows (2005), Pension (2009), birds haven (2014) and The Theater of Apparitions (2016) all confirm that Ballenesque comprises a revolving cast of characters, poetically exploring a sense of inwardness and the subliminal rather than accepted reality.
To Roger Ballen in Johannesburg, the artist organizes selected works into 4 categories that typify his production over the years: people, animals, drawings and, lately, color. Regarding the latterBallen is looking for something in between: an understated approach to color that retains some of the abstraction of black and white.
What emerges in the process of this compartmentalization is a new appreciation of how varied, prodigious, and unconventional his approach to art-making has been. While working within a limited set of constraints, Ballen has managed to stretch and amaze the imagination. As he says, “if you consider yourself an artist, you have to take people to another area”.
“I have always had great respect for the exceptional quality of the exhibitions at the Standard Bank Gallery,” says Ballen. “It is one of the most important exhibition spaces in South Africa, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable venue. As my exhibition is about my relationship with Johannesburg, I couldn’t think of a better place to create this exhibition.”
The exhibition’s curator, Standard Bank Gallery Director Dr. Same Mdluli, agrees. “Ballen’s history as a geologist and photographer, not to mention his long residence in the city, means that he is prepared to navigate the superficiality in his approach to art. Furthermore, the gallery’s central location in an ever-changing CBD and the psychological dimension of Ballen’s work, much of it about the hidden worlds of the city, set the stage for unique and layered conversations about what drives us as beings. humans, how we have interacted with our natural environment and how we read art”.
Exhibition credits and details
Curator: Dr Same Mdluli
featured artist: Dr Roger Ballen
dates: from October 18, 2022 to January 31, 2023, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekends.
Location: Standard bank gallery https://bit.ly/3FGnu8R
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