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Reflex Gallery in Amsterdam opens 'Ballenesque' by photographer Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen, Homebound, New York, 1969. Courtesy Reflex Gallery Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM.- Reflex Gallery in Amsterdam opened a double-sided exhibition of work by internationally acclaimed photographer Roger Ballen. Divided into two, the show comprises a mini retrospective of 30 works, alongside a selection of 150 polaroid images, which condense his singular vision in a small, affordable format. The exhibition runs from 23 November until 30 December 2017.

Roger Ballen is one of the world’s greatest photographers. He picked up a camera in the late 1960s and has never put it down. His extraordinary oeuvre comprises some of the most arresting and original images ever produced. 'Ballenesque' – a term firmly part of the lexicon – is synonymous with his rich monochrome vision, his acute psychological insight, and his constant reinvention of his artistic style.

Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950, but has lived and worked in South Africa for over 30 years. A geologist by training, his work took him to explore the hidden world of South African towns. There, he produced extraordinary images of the empty streets bleached by the sun, but it was once he started knocking on people’s doors, he discovered a world within, that would have a profound and defining effect on his work. These closed interiors, strewn with mysterious objects, and no less intriguing inhabitants, took him on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind.

Ballen’s oeuvre can roughly be divided into series. Each series is captured in his iconic monographs – Boyhood, Dorps, Platteland, Outland, Shadow Chamber, Boarding House, Animal Abstraction, I Fink U Freeky, Asylum of the Birds, Theatre of Apparitions – each the result of five years intensive scrutiny behind the lens.

Cell-like rooms, filled with seemingly scrappy, incongruous objects, figures partially concealed, increasingly unidentifiable. Tangled wires, masks. Birds, cats, dogs, rats, snakes, humans, all rubbing along together – with curiously little domestic feeling. A disturbing, jarring, thought-provoking view of existence. Chalk scrawls on the concrete walls – painted faces, masks and props, graffiti - an increasing blurring of boundaries between photograph, drawing and painting. Ballen’s unparalleled output is predominantly a deeply complex exploration of the psyche.

Commissioned for Reflex Gallery, Ballen has turned his vision to the classic polaroid format, in a selection of 150 unique images. An extension of the series Ballen is working on currently, these polaroids constitute the first display of colour images by the artist during his entire career. This element of the Reflex show presents an incredible opportunity to own an original Roger Ballen image.

The exhibition is accompanied by two new publications:

• Ballenesque – Roger Ballen: A Retrospective (Thames & Hudson)
A book of nearly 350 pages documents the development of Ballen’s photographic style over a period of 50 years.

• Roger Ballen – Polaroids (Reflex Editions)
Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Reflex Amsterdam this publication gives a unique overview of Ballen’s polaroids from 2016 until now.

Roger Ballen’s work is housed in the permanent collections of some of the world’s greatest art institutions from MoMA, New York to LACMA, Los Angeles to The Pushkin Museum of Art in Moscow, Tate Britain in London, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

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