Born in New York City in 1950, Roger Ballen has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa for almost 30 years. During this period from 1982 to 2008 he has produced many series of works which has evolved from photo-journalism to a unique artistic vision. This exhibition tracks the development of his style which has made an important contribution to the field of photography. Ballen’s work has been shown in important institutions throughout the world and is represented in many Museum Collections such as Biblioteque Nationale, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Tate Modern, London, UK, Museum Folkswang, Essen, Germany and Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.
In the series Platteland: Images from Rural South Africa (1994) in which Ballen focuses on the inhabitants of small rural towns and approaches his subjects with a combination of empathy and the unflinching eye of a photojournalist. More than any other collection of Ballen’s work, Platteland vividly brings to life the precarious existence of the people who inhabit the unseen countryside.
Texture, composition and an assortment of both objects and animals increasingly become part of the frame in Outland (2001) and Shadow Chamber (2005). In these works seemingly incompatible objects coexist comfortably with sense of authenticity. To the uninitiated the assortment of objects may seem arbitrary but upon closer inspection one can discern Ballen’s ability to bring out the interrelationship between the different objects, the people, their forms and arrangement as well as their metaphysical and emotive qualities. The series Shadow Chamber in particular demonstrates how space, volume and atmosphere are manipulated to create an eerie and surreal world.
The series of works from Boarding House (2009) are almost exclusively painterly and sculptural. The human and animal subjects have all but disappeared and function more like stage props or weird sculptures within the composition. Visitors to the gallery will notice that, despite the range of subjects and approaches that Ballen has pursued, a sense of continuity is maintained by a number of visual ‘threads’ and graphic elements such as electric wires that can be traced from his latest work back to his earliest photographs in the small towns of South Africa.
The latest series of works entitled “Asylum” approximates a point between surrealism and Art Brut. Whilst these movements originated from painting, Ballen’s images are not paintings, they are photographs, and as a result he has to work within the confines of this media. He believes that his photographs are predominately psychological in meaning and ultimately emanate from his psyche.
Roger Ballen’s monographs include:
Roger Ballen, 2012
Boarding House, 2009
Shadow Chamber, 2005
Fact or Fiction, 2003
Cette Afrique là, 1997
He is represented by the Gagosian Gallery in NYC, Stills Gallery, Sydney; Gallery Xavier Hufkens, Brussels; The Clint Roenisch Gallery, Toronto; The Aura Gallery, Beijing & Shanghai; Galleri Tom Christoffersen, Copenhagen; Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris; Johnen Galerie, Berlin; Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs, Wiesbaden; Galleria Massimo Minini, Brescia; Galerie Alex Daniels, Reflex, Amsterdam; Galerija Fotografija, Slovenija; Galeria SENDA, Barcelona; Hamiltons Gallery, London.
His work resides in the following Museum Collections:
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Berkeley Art Museum, California
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Alabama, USA
Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Durban Art Gallery, Durban, South Africa
Fotomuseum, Munchen, Germany
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, USA
Hasselblad, Goteborg, Sweden
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA
Johannesburg Art Museum, South Africa
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA
Louisiana Museum, Denmark
Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Paris
Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester. United Kingdom
Musée de la Photographie á Charleroi, Belguim
Musee de l’Elysee , Lausanne, Switzerland
Museet for Fotokunst, Denmark
Museo nazionale Della Fotographia, Brescia, Italy
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, USA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
National Museum of Film and Photography, Bradford UK
Spencer Art Museum, Kansas, USA
State Museum of Russia, Moscow, Russia
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Tate Britain, London, UK
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia, USA
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, USA