Etherton Gallery features works by Andy Summers and Ralph Gibson
In the world of galleries and museums, curators and owners often wrestle with the pairing of artists for exhibitions. Sometimes it’s a bit of an intellectual leap to connect two or more artists and their respective works, but other times pairings makes perfect sense—such is the case of the new show at Etherton Gallery that pairs Andy Summers and Ralph Gibson. The exhibit, entitled Light Motifs, is up through November 7 and presents a variety of work from both men who share a love of black and white photography and have a complementary aesthetic.
Ralph Gibson, who is unquestionably one of the giants of contemporary photography, is showing a diverse selection of his images which range from stunning nudes to striking moments of the sublime. Gibson has been working in the digital arena now for three years and his transition from the “analog” world of film has brought some degree of freedom, especially when traveling as frequently as he does. Gibson takes “5 to 6 trips abroad a year and practices a version of visual imperialism” in documenting what he sees. He has been invited by numerous countries to come and shoot, and has most recently been in Australia and is heading to Korea next for a return visit. He describes himself as a “formalist” always adhering to a few tenants like the avoidance of wide angle, maintaining a specific distance to subjects and waiting for the perfect moment. Gibson’s work brings to mind other giants such as Cartier Bresson and Edward Weston, but he also seems uniquely adept at capturing the ethos of modern life like no other artist.
Andy Summers comes to photography alongside his other passion, which is music. Perhaps best known as part of the rock band The Police, Summers won raves for his guitar work and was named to several lists proclaiming him one of the greatest guitarists ever. He continues to make music and tour around the world, which also enables him to capture what he sees while abroad with his camera. Early work by Summers documented his life on the road with The Police and the surreal nature of being in one of the biggest bands in the world. But Summers is also quite a talented photographer of other subjects, most notably the female form, and his nudes are both striking and unique. Summers seems able to capture the stranger in a strange land with his dark, moody images of other cultures. He tends to focus on black and white imagery, although it “seems like sacrilege not to capture the color in the real world,” because it allows him to focus on detail and get more out of the subject. Summers strives to “create an attitude or mystery on the wall” with his work which often evolves over the course of a body of work. He aims to “transform the ordinary into the extraordinary,” and more often than not succeeds.
Ironically Summers and Gibson are in fact great friends, having met in 1983 in Brazil and having collaborated over the years on books, but have never exhibited together before this show, which according to Summers is both “fun for us and an honor for me to show with Ralph.” The two often get together and not only look at each other’s work, but play music together as Gibson is now a guitar player. Both men share a love of the same subjects, but also the world around them, and increasingly find themselves traveling in order to shoot. While Gibson is entirely digital in his work, Summers is about half-and-half and begrudgingly carries dozens and dozens of rolls of film through airport security whenever he’s abroad. While the two live on opposite sides of the country—Gibson in New York and Summers in California—they relish the time they get to spend with each other and the recent opening of the show at Etherton in late September gave them the chance to meet up and catch up with Tucsonans getting a chance to meet them as well. n
Light Motifs, work by Andy Summers and Ralph Gibson is on display at the Etherton Gallery, located at 135 S. 6th Avenue through November 7.
EthertonGallery.com, ph. 520.624.7370