Born 1969 in Miami, Florida; lives in New York, New York
Roe Ethridge arranges his large-format photographs into series whose precise meaning remains elusive. His gallery installations and book projects mix fine-art photographs and commercial images, including outtakes from his illustrational magazine work. A polished studio portrait may be juxtaposed with a grainy still-life drawn from a retail catalogue or a cropped shot of signage in a strip mall. At first glance the groupings may seem like selections from a stock-photography archive, but they are infused with an element of nostalgia and the uncanny. Images that feel familiar begin to take on an eerie sense of mystery when juxtaposed in the artist’s seemingly random arrays.
Though not immediately apparent, Ethridge organizes his series around certain themes. His recent book Rockaway, NY (2007) plays with a “coastal” theme, but the imagery ranges from a frozen marina on the Columbia River to the port of Mumbai and surfers in Cornwall, England, as well as scenes of Rockaway Beach, Queens, where he and his wife rent an apartment. Ethridge describes his process as both improvised and systematic: “The idea is not to render a perfect illustration of a coastal-themed photo project, but something more like a fugue form with multiple voices that pull the threads through this coastal thematic.” A boat appears in one image, echoed by a diΩerent vessel in the next; portraits of individuals are followed by misty streetscapes. “There could be any kind of counterpoint—formal, conceptual to content. It’s like a plate spinner. You want to keep all of them going at one time,” he says.
Not surprisingly, Ethridge has been influenced by the work of Thomas Ruff, Michael Schmidt, Christopher Williams, and other artists who combine photographs that veer from the biographical to a metanarrative conceptual mode. “I’m not making individual conceptual images, but a conceptual aspect comes about in the juxtapositions and groupings,” he says. By arranging his work in various sequences, contexts, and installations, Ethridge reveals the mutability of his images, the possibility that the original intention with which a picture was created might fall away over time, allowing it to take on new meaning. We are encouraged each time to examine these images and their interrelations anew. JASON EDWARD KAUFMAN
Roe Ethridge, Camilla, 2007. Chromogenic print, 32 x 24 in. (81.3 x 61 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York