In 2018, photographer, filmmaker, and educator RaMell Ross released the documentary film Hale County This Morning, This Evening to critical acclaim, inspiring wide-ranging artistic dialogue on the nature and status of filmmaking and earning mainstream recognition through an Academy Award nomination. The film’s power to captivate is inextricably tied to Ross’ ability to connect with the individuals that inhabit the experiences rendered by his large-format photographs and DSLR video camera. Within his work, the voyeuristic construction of a subject’s narrative – typical of film and often equally so of photography and other representational modes – is deconstructed and replaced with a fluid and unencumbered aesthetics.
Of his vision, Ross says, “I’ve wanted to unburden the expectations of Blackness, and toy with the power of personal experience and one’s relational proximity to communities to shape observations and in turn memories. ‘Liberated documentation,’ as I term it, it’s that Western ethics and values of documenting and the document are unsuited to deal with the complexity of Blackness. I want to make work that unitedly honors its participants, resists their easy consumption and judgement, and quietly asks our imagination and intellect to question the known and easy constructions of identity and place.”
Spell, Time, Practice, American, Body explores Ross’ inquiry into Hale County through photography and film, while also examining Ross’ broader formal and conceptual language – one that emphasizes his everyday experiences. This exhibition features a wide selection of Ross’ large-format photographic work, familiarizing audiences with his aesthetics and vision. These images are presented alongside installation and sculpture – offering for the first time a holistic presentation of Ross’ practice and drive to create “contemporary images and objects as liberated documents” he said. The exhibition also includes ceramic African American Santa figures painted by Ross’ late mother Gisele Ross, offering an intimate look at his early inspirations.
from the exhibition text
Spell, Time, Practice, American, Body: The Work of RaMell Ross is on view at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans through March 27, 2022.