Herb Ritts: Retrospective

Herb Ritts: Retrospective On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles this summer is a retrospective of iconic and lesserknown works by legendary photographer Herb Ritts, who died at age 50 in 2002. Herb Ritts: LA. Style, also published by Getty as a book of the same name, is the first major exhibition of his work since 1996 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Although attendance at that show broke the museumrecord, critics dismissed the selection of images as pandering. Thatprecisely why Paul Martineau, Getty associate curator of photography, wanted to do this exhibit. "Ever since the Boston show, therebeen a cloud hanging over Ritts, and I thought it was time to blow that cloud away," he says. The Herb Ritts Foundation gave Martineau unfettered access to Ritts’work. He looked through more than 1,000 boxes of prints, which he culled down to the 115 in the show. wanted to represent all the areas of his black-and-white work, which included celebrity, nudes and fashion,”Martineau says. "I emphasized fashion and nudes over celebrities because of all the press those images have had in the past. I also looked for a nice balance between iconic images and prints that have never been seen —strong work, just not selected by the artist to be printed after their initial display in editorial. Some images were outtakes from fashion shoots that no one saw, not even the magazine.” In the 1980s, Ritts was in the vanguard of photographers doing commercial work in an artistic way, and his influence continues today in fashion and advertising photography. He was also one of the first photographers to make advertising and music videos, and Martineau selected several for the exhibition, including Ritts’first and most famous video of Madonna, "Cherish." "He was able to translate his still film aesthetic to the moving image. Not many photographers are able to do that." Although itclear to everyone else that Ritts helped define an L.A. style, the photographer himself didnsee it. When asked about it, he said, "I donthink I know what an L.A. style would be." "I think he didnwant to be pegged as one thing or another," Martineau ventures. "He thought that would be limiting. He was shooting in Hawaii, Europe and New York in addition to L.A., so he saw himself as an international photographer. I donthink he was able to see how important his contributions were to the creation of an L.A. style." Herb Ritts: L.A. Style is on view at the Getty until August 26. It will be on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum October 6 to December 30, then travel to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Florida in February 2013.

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