Exhibitions: Ralph Gibson, In Color

By David Schonauer   Thursday June 9, 2016

You may well know Ralph Gibson’s black-and-white photography.

Over the course of a long career the artist has skillfully blurred the boundaries between representational and abstract art in his celebrated monochrome images, collected in books such as L’Anonyme and NUDE. But since the advent of digital photography, Gibson has also explored color photography, and this summer he is presenting some of that work in an exhibition at the Galerie Thierry Bigaignon  in Paris. Called “Vertical Horizon,” the exhibition opens on June 10 and runs through August 27.

The series features 12 never-before-seen color prints that are at once something new and, for Gibson, quite familiar.

“At 77, Ralph Gibson is still vividly exploring the particularities that built his identity as a photographer,” notes the gallery. Says Bigaignon himself,  “Ralph Gibson’s images highlight the idea of boundaries and opposition. They’re visual oxymorons, so we decided to title the exhibition ‘Vertical Horizon,’ which perfectly encapsulates these concepts.”

In its abstract for the exhibition, the gallery also quotes French art historian Gilles Mora, who previewed the series. “Ralph Gibson,” notes Mora, “is without doubt the most European of American photographers, and knows our culture perfectly. His mastery of composition, halfway between graphic artwork and abstraction, has never precluded the sensuality which is the particular trademark of his photographs. It is time to rediscover Ralph Gibson.”

That is exactly what France is now doing. This new exhibition opens 41 years to the day after French art dealer Agathe Gaillard inaugurated her landmark photography gallery in Paris by exhibiting Gibson’s work. It comes 17 years after a Gibson retrospective at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, and five years after his last exhibition in the city, notes the British Journal of Photography.

Gibson, who is also an accomplished musician, takes a studied but intuitive approach to putting together exhibitions. The Art of Photography features a behind-the-scenes video shot as Gibson prepared the new show in Paris. “It’s not really mathematical, but there is a kind of visual algorithm that suggests itself — that the work implies, and then we respond to it instinctively,” he says in the video. “You move these [images] around, and all of a sudden you’re in another place. That’s enough to keep me going. It gets me out of bed in the morning. ”

See more of Gibson’s work at his website.
See also the Galerie Thierry Bigaignon.


  1. Richard Peterson commented on: June 9, 2016 at 2:16 p.m.
    Great article about one of my all time favorite artists! Interesting to see his work in color, and the way color becomes part of the statement, and the emotion it elicits.

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