The Ringling has continued its ambitious program of collecting and exhibiting photography over the last few years. A substantial number of objects have been added to our collection, including significant photographs from the modern era as well as noteworthy contemporary work. Among the most exciting of these recent acquisitions is a set of eleven digital chromogenic prints by Hank Willis Thomas from his series Unbranded: A Century of White Women in America (1915-2015), made possible by a gift from William and Jane Knapp. Thomas is known for exposing constructions of race and gender embedded in Western visual culture, and in this provocative series he mines a century of advertising images to explore the ways in which women’s identity has been constructed through mass marketing.
The Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing galleries feature an ongoing series of exhibitions that highlight The Ringling’s diverse permanent collection of photography and works on paper that has been building for over 50 years. These exhibitions present the collection in unique ways, exploring specific themes.
Opening in February 2017, Territories: Photography, Space, and Power is the next exhibition curated from The Ringling’s permanent collection. Territories explores the myriad ways in which spaces are organized by cultural forces and political power. Visitors will be able to study how the camera can reveal by what means humans organize and encode the space they inhabit as well as how the camera itself organizes the space into its own logic. Several large format works from The Ringling’s collection, rarely on display, will be on view in the exhibition, including photographs by Thomas Struth (born 1954) and Lewis Baltz (1945–2014). Territories will feature a wide assortment of approaches to and uses of photography in apprehending the spaces we occupy, from military and aerial photography to contemporary art practices.
The Middle East continues to play a critical geopolitical and cultural role in the world. Many of us intimately understand the effect of the recent and current wars in that region, either from our own deployment or from friends and family who have served in the military. Others can only try to absorb their impact through mediated words and images in the press. From September 2017 to January 2018 The Ringling presents Aftermath: The Fallout of War—America and the Middle East. Organized by the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, this thought-provoking and important special exhibition examines the work of twelve contemporary international artists through the lens of armed conflict. The 90 photographs, two videos, and interactive component of the exhibition confront profound and sometimes difficult issues that arise in the wake of wars such as loss, refugees, environmental threats, and veterans from the US and the Middle East. Experienced together, these images raise important questions, inspire reflection, and encourage meaningful engagement about the future.
Active in the US and Middle East, the artists in the exhibition depict the conditions and people caught in the crossfire of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, and Israel from a variety of perspectives. The artists included in Aftermath are Lynsey Addario, Jananne Al-Ani, Jennifer Karady, Gloriann Liu, Rania Matar, Eman Mohammed, Farah Nosh, Suzanne Opton, Michal Rovner, Stephen Dupont, Ben Lowy, and Simon Norfolk.
In commenting on life, loss, and survival, the artists in Aftermath reinforce our shared connections as global citizens and encourage awareness and compassion.
Christopher Jones, The Ringling’s Associate Curator of Photography and Exhibitions
The catalogue, published in conjunction with the exhibition, includes thoughtful contributions from a diverse group of scholars, journalists, and poets. As a significant center of cultural learning, The Ringling will offer educational programs surrounding the exhibition, in order to extend and contextualize the powerful and often haunting images.