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Roger Ballen, Alice Leora Briggs and Joel-Peter Witkin


September 6 – November 12, 2016

Opening Reception: Reception: September 10, 7-10pm
Location: Etherton Gallery
135 S. Sixth Avenue
Gallery Hours: 11 - 5 Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment
Contact: info@ethertongallery.com, 624-7370


Etherton Gallery Announces First Show of 2016-2017 Season

Kicks off 35th Anniversary with internationally renowned artists

Etherton Gallery is pleased to announce its first exhibition of its 35th anniversary season, ShadowLands, whichfeatures new prints by Alice Leora Briggs and selected photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin and Roger Ballen. The showfeatures three artists whose controversial visions of the world are presented in dark imaginary realms so seductive that as poet Mark Strand (1934-2014) wrote, “you want to saturate yourself with their particular voices.” ShadowLands runs from September 6 through November 12, 2016. An artist reception and book signing will be held at 7-10pm, Saturday, September 10 at the gallery. The gallery will offer a limited number of books by Briggs and Witkin who will attend the reception and be available to sign books. A limited number of Roger Ballen’s books, including signed copies of Outland (2001) will also be available. In collaboration with the Center for Creative Photography, Joel-Peter Witkin will give a talk at 5:30pm, Friday, September 9 in the auditorium.

“NOT FOR THE TIMID OR EASILY OFFENDED” begins a review for a 2014 Joel-Peter Witkin show in Brussels. Witkin’s work can produce visceral reactions in his viewer. He confronts the irrationality and strangeness of being the world to achieve greater personal insight and spark reflection in the viewer. ShadowLands highlights a selection of recent and classic photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin. The gallery has a long-standing relationship with Witkin that goes back over three decades. Described as the heir to a dark romanticism, Joel-Peter Witkin presents his “history of conscience” through painstakingly constructed tableaux that address a range of controversial subjects in a vocabulary drawn from a deep knowledge of art and photographic history, contemporary events and religion. His photographs are morality plays turned on their head, in which the carriers of beauty, innocence and virtue are often the deformed or those living on the margins -- transsexuals, sadomasochists, dwarfs, amputees, and androgynes met on random encounters or through classified ads. Witkin finds beauty in the grotesque, equal to the exquisite women that also inhabit his photographs. Recontextualizing elements of religious iconography, myth, art history and pop culture into a new whole, he highlights the humanity of his subjects. Early mages such as Head of a Dead Man follow in the steps of Romantic painter, Théodore Géricault, who painted dismembered bodies of condemned prisoners, and the mentally ill inmates of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. If early images are more visually combative, later work is tender, even humorous at times. Images like Good Americans, When They Die, go to Paris, Bogotá (2011), simultaneously represent the American romantic association with France at the same time that the French place tragedy at the center of their being. Witkin engages his viewer by juxtaposing difficult subjects with exquisite technique. He takes few photographs and makes only a limited number of his sumptuous prints. In the darkroom, he takes tremendous risks with his master negative, scraping, tearing, sanding, writing, and scratching its surface. He also works his prints, finishing them with paint, retouching, cutting, collaging and coating them with encaustic. As he says, “my work is about bringing imagination and possible visual references to a personal objectivity, which decries compromise of all kinds…. presentations of mankind’s splendor and misery in the process of our craving the truth and the courage to live.”

Etherton Gallery is pleased to present a selection of photographs by Roger Ballen made over the course of his career. Ballen, an American, has lived in Johannesburg, South Africa for over forty years. He has published 20 books and his work has been the subject of countless museum exhibitions worldwide. His work has never been in shown in Tucson, let alone the Southwest.

Gallery owner Terry Etherton said, “It is real coup for the gallery to work with such an influential, internationally renowned photographer like Roger Ballen. His work is rarely available in the United States, and we are thrilled to be able to present his work along with Alice Briggs and Joel-Peter Witkin to our Tucson audience.

Typically after Ballen completes a photographic series, the work is published in book form. Early in his career, Ballen worked in a documentary style and highlighted the plight of rural villages and towns in Dorps, (1986) and poor white communities of suburban Johannesburg suffering under apartheid in Platteland (1994). Images such as Casie and Dresie, twins, Western Transvaal (1993) present a spare and unflinching portrait of two disabled men. While working on his third book, Outland (2001), he began staging his photographs and directing his subjects.  His images evolved from documents to darkly imagined spaces inhabited by people who had fallen through the cracks. In images such as Puppy between Feet (1999) and Curled Up (1998), Ballen’s subjects were mentally ill, homeless, criminals, animals, and transients, isolated in rooms often containing enigmatic drawings, sometimes made by them, sometimes by Ballen.  Ballen’s recent work replaces human subjects with animals, wires, masks and dolls in photographs such as Take Off (2012), the cover of Asylum of the Birds (2014).  Ballen’s interiors suggest the dislocation of his subjects and can evoke a visceral response from the viewer.  In addition to drawing and photography, Ballen has also made videos of the controversial South African band, Die Antwoord. Expressing an intention that echoes Witkin’s, Roger Ballen says, “I want pictures to challenge people’s psyche, to challenge their insides. I make images that come out from the dark straight into their faces. There could be beauty and ugliness, humour and tragedy in the same image.”  Roger Ballen’s photographs constitute a search to understand his own psyche, but force us to reconsider our own deeply held beliefs.

Etherton Gallery will present a new suite of twelve chine collè woodcuts by Alice Leora Briggs, The Room, an homage to U.S Poet Laureate, Mark Strand, published by Flatbed Press in 2015. Briggs is best known for her narrative sgraffito (scratchboard) drawings, which marry Renaissance technology and artistic style to contemporary subjects. Briggs’ images are composed of words and text. She has worked with writer Charles Bowden on the graphic novel Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez, about border violence in Juárez, Mexico, and is in the process of completing an “abecedario de Juárez” (Alphabet of Juárez) a glossary of narco slang or criminal slang used in Juárez.  In her new work, Briggs trades narrative for interiority; each image corresponds to a line from Strand’s poem. For example, the image paired with the last line of The Room, “where nothing, when it happens, is never terrible enough.” is paired with Briggs’ image of three people drinking tea, unconscious of the disemboweled dead man laying before them on a table.  The subjects are tough and yet printed on the chine collé tissue, which is delicate, transparent and ephemeral mirroring Briggs own sentiments: “Whether I am making a sgraffito drawing or a woodcut, I cut white marks into black fields. Each slash throws a spark into dark territory; each mark is a scar. I have a manic duty to botch up surfaces… For me, poetry comes from mortal substance – the physical experience of my body moving through the world and an acute awarenesss that my presence in the world is temporary.”

Shadowlands highlights the work of three artists who confront us with essential truths about the human condition we would rather not acknowledge, while simultaneously drawing us in with the visual poetry of their work.

For more information about ShadowLands, please contact Daphne Srinivasan or Hannah Glasston at Etherton Gallery.

Joel-Peter Witkin (1939 -)
Joel-Peter Witkin received a camera at the age of 15 after taking an introductory class in photography. After high school and jobs in New York color labs, he joined the military. Witkin studied at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, where he earned his BA and the University of New Mexico, where he earned his MFA in 1986.

Witkin’s dark world view is expressed through painstakingly constructed photographs, alluding to the work of Henry Peach Robinson and Oscar Gustave Rejlander, who created the elaborately staged morality tale, The Two Ways of Life (1857). However, Witkin’s tableaux are dense with literary, art historical and religious references that pose moral challenges to the viewer. His images are inhabited by social outcasts, including dwarves, hermaphrodites, people with unusual physical capabilities or deformities, and mutilated corpses and amputated body parts from the dead, obtained from medical schools, insane asylums and morgues. The resulting photographs are simultaneously hauntingly beautiful and grotesque.

These images do not dwell in the modern world, but rather exist in a timeless place where the ages collide. Renaissance Madonnas and Venuses, Dutch still lifes, Mexican retablos, Caravaggio, William Blake, Courbet, Lucien Freud, Seurat, and Dali coexist in his photographs.  Fragments of Etienne-Jules Marey’s nineteenth century motion studies and a nude study by French photographer Charles Nègre can also be found in his images. Witkin’s method of working harkens back to academically trained Renaissance painters. He carefully plans his tableaux, sketching their designs and arranging every detail before beginning work in the studio. These images must often be produced; and it is difficult to find models. Once in the studio, it can take up to two weeks to finish one photograph. He then reinvents it in his darkroom, where he makes the photograph into something virtually hand-made by scratching and even puncturing the negative.   Printing is the final step in making the taboo and the grotesque seem sexually desirable and beautiful in Witkin’s world.

Joel-Peter Witkin's photography has been featured in several monographs, most recently Witkin & Witkin (2016); Vanitas (2012) and the catalogue accompanying a major retrospective at the Bibliothèque National in Paris, Witkin (2012). Other publications include Joel-Peter Witkin, A Retrospective (1995); Harms Way (1994); Joel-Peter Witkin, Twelve Photographs in Gravure (1994) and Gods of Heaven and Earth (1989). His work is included in public collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, The National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Centre Georges Pompidou. He is also the recipient of the Commandeur d’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France.


Roger Ballen (1950-)
One of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century, Roger Ballen’s photographs span over forty years. His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.

Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun, but once he had made the step of knocking on people’s doors, he discovered a world inside these houses, which was to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive collections of objects and the occupants within these closed worlds took his unique vision on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg.

Over the past thirty years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works in the exhibition his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction’. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series’ Outland and Shadow Chamber collaborating to create powerful psychodramas.

The line between fantasy and reality in his more recent series’ Boarding House and Asylum of the Birds has become increasingly blurred and in these series he has employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets. People are now often absent altogether; replaced by photographs of people used as props, by doll or dummy parts or where they do appear it’s as disembodied hands, feet and mouths poking disturbingly through walls and pieces of rag. The often improvised scenarios are completed by the unpredictable behaviour of the animals whose ambiguous behaviour is crucial to the overall meaning of the photographs. Ballen has invented a new hybrid aesthetic in these works but one still rooted firmly in black and white photography.

Roger Ballen has allowed himself to be won over by the possibilities of integrating photography and drawing. He has expanded his repertoire and extended his visual language. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, the artist has not only made a lasting contribution to the field of art, but equally has made a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential.


Alice Leora Briggs (1953-)
Alice Leora Briggs’ work includes sgraffito drawings (a technique that originated in 13th century Germany), woodcuts, large installations, and artist books. She received an MFA in 1981 from the University of Iowa.

Reproductions of nearly 200 of Briggs’ drawings were published in a non-fiction book titled Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez. This “illuminated manuscript/police blotter” centers on human collisions along the Mexico-United States border (University of Texas Press, 2010). Previously Briggs produced two limited edition books, The Essence of Beeing published by Sherwin Beach Press (1992), and Dear Mr. Kappus: The Eighth Letter (1982).

Briggs’ work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at select galleries and museums including Box Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; d berman gallery, Austin, TX; Davidson Gallery, Seattle, WA; Evoke Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM; Eide/Dalrymple Gallery, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD; Nau-Haus Art, Houston, TX; de Young Museum, San Francisco; El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, TX; Etherton Gallery, Tucson, AZ; Joseph Gross Gallery, University of Arizona School of Art, Tucson; Galeria mesta Bratislavy, Palffy Palace, Bratislava, Slovak Republic; International Print Center New York (IPCNY); International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago, IL; Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA; Mercer Gallery, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, TX; New York Center for Book Arts, New York, NY; Nora Eccles Harrison Museum, Logan, UT; NM; and the Tucson Museum of Art.

Upcoming exhibitions in 2013 include: In the Wake of Juarez: Drawings by Alice Leora Briggs, University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque; Bipola, Mesa Contemporary Art Museum, Mesa, AZ; Alice Leora Briggs and Rigoberto Gonzalez Alonso, Southwest School of Art, San Antonio, TX.

Briggs is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including: Fulbright Scholar, Slovak Republic (2011); Artist Residency at Anderson Ranch and Art Center, Snowmass, CO (2010) Artist Residency at the Border Art Residency, an affiliate of the El Paso Community Foundation (2008-2009); Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Award, offered by the Dallas Museum of Art (2008); the Texas Prize, Wichita Falls Museum of Art, Wichita Falls, TX (2008); Artist Residency, the Jentel Foundation, Banner, WY (2007); Serie Workshop Residency, Austin, TX (2007); City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Seventh Avenue Streetscape public art project (2005); Project Grant, Arizona Commission on the Arts (2004); Contemporary Forum, Cummings Endowment Grant, Phoenix Art Museum (2003); International Exchange Grant (travel to Slovak Republic), Tucson Pima Arts Council (2003); Visual Artist Fellowship, Tucson/Pima Arts Council (2001); Larry E. Elsner Art Foundation Grant (2001), Individual Artist Grant, Utah Arts Council (1995), Visual Artists Fellowship, Utah Arts Council (1994).

Her work has been the subject of articles and reviews in publications including, The Albuquerque Journal, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic, California Literary Review, The Chicago-Sun Times, The El Paso Times, PBS NewsHour, ArtBeat; Pasatiempo, Tucson Weekly, The Salt Lake Tribune, Santa Fean Magazine, Santa Fe Trend Magazine, Shade Magazine, Sculpture Magazine and THE Magazine. Briggs is featured in Who’s Who in American Art.

Alice Leora Briggs’ work is in the permanent collections of public institutions including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, El Paso Museum of Art; University of Iowa Museum of Art; Nora Eccles Harrison Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson Museum of Art, Wichita Falls Museum of Art Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Carlton College Gould Library Special Collections, Sherwin Beach Press Collection; Cornell University, Main Library Special Collections; Library of Congress, Rare Books/Special Collections; Rochester Institute of Technology Libraries, Cary Collection Art of the Book Collection; South Dakota School of Mines and Technology/ Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation;  University of Chicago Library Special Collections, Rare Books; Museum of Texas Tech University; University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Blue Heron Press Collection, Artists’ Books; University of Oxford, Bodleian Library; Border Art Residency and Denver Art Museum and numerous private collections.


Etherton Gallery
Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, Etherton Gallery is one of the leading galleries of fine art photography in the United States. The gallery is best known for its extensive inventory of classic and contemporary photography and works by emerging photographers expanding the medium in compelling ways. Our exhibitions consistently highlight the most important figures in the history of the medium and we remain dedicated to making great works of photography accessible to novices and experienced collectors alike.

In support of our goal to champion the arts of the Southwest and in particular Tucson, Etherton Gallery also exhibits top local and regional artists working in a variety of media, and regularly presents free exhibition programs that address related local and national issues.
Etherton Gallery is a long-standing member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) and regularly participates in fine art photography fairs including the AIPAD Photography Show, Classic Photographs LA, and Paris Photo. Terry Etherton is also an accredited member of the American Society of Appraisers and is available for appraisals, absentee bidding and collections consultation.


Joel-Peter Witkin Alice Leora Briggs Roger Ballen