The Judith Joy Ross Retrospective: A Journey Through American History

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be the only U.S. venue—following Madrid, Paris, and the Hague—for the traveling retrospective exhibition devoted to the photographs of Judith Joy Ross, whose images offer a quietly penetrating portrait of our age. Spanning a period from the 1970s through the 2010s, Judith Joy Ross is the largest exhibition to feature the work of this preeminent portrait photographer to date. Ross’s subjects include children at municipal parks or in the public schools of Hazleton, Pennsylvania; members of Congress in Washington, DC; and African immigrants in Paris. The nation’s wars and invasions have precipitated many arresting images by Ross, including visitors to the Vietnam War Memorial, reservists called into active duty, and civilians supporting or protesting U.S. wars in the Middle East.

Sasha Suda, George D. Widener Director and CEO at the Philadelphia Museum of Art said: “Judith Joy Ross presents us with a portrait of the people of our time. Some of Ross’s most compelling photographs originate in Philadelphia, where she discovered photography. We look forward to sharing this very human body of work with our visitors.”

Guest curator Joshua Chuang notes, “The overarching themes in Ross’s oeuvre form a catalogue of the human experience: innocence and loss; courage and fear; bitterness and beauty; hubris; the resilience of and disenchantment of individuals and a people.”

Using a large format, 8 x 10 in. view camera since the 1980s, Ross has been capturing her brief encounters with a cross-section of American people and with a special focus on eastern Pennsylvania where she was born and raised. Her work reformulates the relationship between photographer and the photographed and reflects emotional and psychological connections that traverse boundaries and resist sentimentality. The exhibition encompasses all her major projects as well as smaller series and contains images that have not been on view before.

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The entire exhibition is drawn from Judith Joy Ross’s personal archive. The Philadelphia presentation will be augmented by a group of works by the French photographer Eugène Atget (1857-1927), selected by Ross who deeply admires Atget. Both artists used large-format cameras and straightforward contact prints to record their subjects.

Peter Barberie, Brodsky Curator of Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, observes, “Judith Joy Ross’s achievement is immense. With humility and quiet specificity, she produced an enduring, universal body of photographs about human experience. We are thrilled to present this survey celebrating an internationally acclaimed artist who is also a hometown hero for Philadelphia and the region.”

Judith Joy Ross is curated by independent curator Joshua Chuang. In Philadelphia, the curatorial team also includes Peter Barberie, Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center; Amanda N. Bock, Lynne and Harold Honickman Assistant Curator of Photographs; and Molly Kalkstein, Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography.

Scholarly catalogue
The exhibition is accompanied by a major illustrated catalogue, co-published in English by MAPFRE and Aperture. It includes essays by curator Joshua Chuang and art historian Svetlana Alpers, and an illustrated chronology by Joshua Chuang and Adam Ryan. A personal reflection by Ross’s friend Addison Bross is also included. The volume is available in the Museum Store or via the website at ($65).

The exhibition is organized by Fundación MAPFRE in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Judith Joy Ross has been made possible through the museum’s endowment with the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions, and the Lois G. and Julian A. Brodsky Installation and Exhibition Fund, and by additional contributions from Andrea Baldeck, M.D., Lois G. and Julian A. Brodsky, Robert and Julie Jensen Bryan, Sarena Snider, and other generous donors.

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