Roger Ballen is regarded as one of the worlds foremost practitioners of black and white photography. He has been shooting in monochrome for nearly half a century, from his renowned documentary images of South African villagers to his recent extraordinary explorations of the psyche and its aesthetic.
Ballens work has been exhibited across the globe, and is widely collected by the worlds important art institutions, from Moma in New York, to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
The Reflex Gallery, Amsterdam
, presents a rare opportunity to view a selection of Ballens work from over the past 20 years. The exhibition will showcase iconic images from his acclaimed books, Shadow Chamber, Outland, and Boarding House, as well as important photographs that have never been shown before. In their rich complexity and visual daring, the 25 works on display challenge the viewers perception of photography and its relation to art - and to life.
These multi-layered photographs illuminate Ballens fascination with the animal kingdom and our complicated relationship to animals and birds. He invites us to reconsider that dynamic:
A bird spreading its wings mirrors the concertina of an accordion. A snake slithers across a drawing of a boy whose eyes peer out of a tiger skin stretched across his face. A siamese crouches on a chaise-longue next to a woman wearing a cat mask. Are these playful scenes, or is there a note of menace? Who is in control us or them?
I feel an affinity with animals, Ballen says. There is something mysterious and beautiful about them that is hard to put your finger on. They dont give their secrets away.
Consistently in these works, Ballen insists on obscuring human identity. All we are given are masked figures, or disembodied hands and feet. It is unsettling, ambiguous. The addition of drawing and collage present yet more layers for us to decipher.
Each image invites careful study, providing multiple readings, multiple meanings. Ballen leaves it to the viewer to make his mind up.
I want, consciously, or unconsciously, to get to the meaning of life.
Galerie Alex Daniels cordially invites you to the opening of the exhibition on Saturday, November 12th between 5 and 7 pm in the presence of the artist.
Animal Abstraction, a collection of images from the exhibition as well as other important photographs, is published by Reflex Gallery in conjunction with the show. Roger Ballen will be signing copies of the book at the opening. A portfolio in a limited edition with an original print matching the show will be presented at the opening.