The fantastic special exhibition “Herb Ritts: Beauty and Celebrity,” featuring the legendary photographer’s innovative and intimate portraits of Madonna, Richard Gere, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Christopher Reeve and more, closes Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive.
Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with the support of the Herb Ritts Foundation and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, this exhibition features more than 80 large-scale black-and-white photographs by acclaimed photographer, Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002). Ranging in scale from intimate portraits to ten foot murals, the exhibition will highlight the diversity of the artist’s work. Known for his innovative approach to fashion, intimate portraiture of celebrities, and the classical treatment of the nude, Ritts emerged in the 1980s to become one of the most successful celebrity and fashion photographers of the late 20th century and an important part of the history of American photography.
Ritts grew up in Los Angeles and maintained his studio in Hollywood. A self-taught photographer, Ritts first began taking photographs in the late 1970s after studying economics at Bard College. The intimate publicity images that he made of Richard Gere were among his first serious portraits and helped to launch his career. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ritts built his reputation as a leading celebrity portraitist and fashion photographer, contributing regularly to publications such as GQ, Mademoiselle, Vogue, and Vanity Fair.
From 1988, he also made music videos and commercials for which he won numerous awards. One of the exhibit’s key images is the portrait Ritts took of Madonna for her “True Blue” album cover. He also worked with the superstar in her “Cherish” video and directed the indelible videos for Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Michael Jackson’s “In the Closet.”
The photographs included in the exhibition represent some of Herb Ritts’s most iconic works which incorporate the natural light of the California sun while emphasizing shapes, unusual juxtapositions, and the beauty of the human form. Ritts celebrates nature and the human body in evoking the tactile appeal of surface textures of grains of sand, veiled fabric, drying mud, and cascading water seen in “Waterfall 4″ (1988), “Backflip” (1987), and “Woman in Sea” (1988).
Memorable fashion photographs on view include “Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage” (1990), “Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood” (1989), and “Djimon with Octopus” (1989). Examples of celebrity portraiture include Richard Gere, Jack Nicholson, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Depp, Bruce Springsteen, Drew Barrymore, David Bowie, Matthew McConaughey, and Mick Jagger.
Also included in the exhibition are poetic and eternal images in Ritts’s “Africa” series, taken in 1993 when he traveled to East Africa, and examples from the rare ”Corps et Ames” (1999) series of photographs, portraying dancers in motion.
This exhibition – drawn from the photography collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Herb Ritts Foundation – present Herb Ritts’ style and the range of his career.
This exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in association with the Herb Ritts Foundation and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
OKC Museum of Art Associate Curator Jennifer Klos will give a free curator talk about the exhibit at noon Wednesday at the museum as part of the ongoing Art Moves series. She will give a final gallery talk at 1 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, go to www.okcmoa.com.