Ralph Burns at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

By October 15, 2022
billboard installation of black and white photograph depicting a person carrying a religious statue is seen at the top of a hill surrounding a lush green forest woodland
Installation view of Ralph Burns, Festividad de Nuestra de Guadalupe #1, Mexico City, Mexico, 2003, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © 2022 Ralph Burns and the North Carolina Museum of Art. Photograph by Karen Malinofski.
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Ralph Burns, How Great Thou Art #6, from How Great Thou Art, Memphis, TN, 1978–2007, 1988, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © 2022
Ralph Burns and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Ralph Burns, Baptism # 1, Jordan River, Israel, 1996, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © 2022 Ralph Burns and the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Fall 2022 Billboards: Ralph Burns surveys the artist’s distinguished black-and-white documentarian style. These photographs capture the intricacies of worship, ritual, and love through an impartial lens.

As Burns states, he uses his camera as a tool “to try to understand.” In one photo a penitent in Mexico carries the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In another a woman writhes with emotional intensity as she is baptized in the Jordan River in Israel. A third photo depicts a young boy emulating Elvis during a pilgrimage to Graceland. Together, these images serve as glimpses into a connected experience of religiosity and adoration.

This selection of photographs accompanies a larger exhibition of the artist’s How Great Thou Art series in Outlandish: Photographs by Ralph Burns from the Collection of Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull/Photographs from the Collection of Allen G. Thomas Jr, on view in East Building from August 20, 2022 to February 12, 2023.

Using photography from the Museum’s collection, this exhibition examines the peculiarity of human experience and expression. In one gallery selections from a photo series by Asheville-based photographer Ralph Burns donated by Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull capture the intricacies of worship, ritual, and love. For decades Burns followed crowds of devout Elvis fans during their pilgrimages to Graceland. His documentarian style demonstrates a deep understanding of humanness and emotional connection. Ultimately, this exhibition questions the emotions we project onto the subjects of the photographs, confronting our implicit judgments of each other and what we deem unusual.

from the exhibition text

 Ralph Burns, Festividad de Nuestra de Guadalupe #1, Mexico City, Mexico, 2003, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © 2022
Ralph Burns and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
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Installation view of Ralph Burns, Baptism # 1, Jordan River, Israel, 1996, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © 2022 Ralph Burns and the North Carolina Museum of Art. Photograph by Karen Malinofski courtesy of NCMA.
Installation view of Ralph Burns, How Great Thou Art #6, from How Great Thou Art, Memphis, TN, 1978–2007, 1988, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist © 2022 Ralph Burns and the North Carolina Museum of Art. Photograph by Karen Malinofski courtesy of NCMA.

Fall 2022 Billboards: Ralph Burns and Outlandish: Photographs by Ralph Burns are on view at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh through February 12, 2023.

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