Gibson, Ralph

American (1939-)

Ralph Gibson’s rich education in photography came from a variety of sources. While serving in the US Navy, he studied photography as a way of chronicling enlisted life for publicity materials. Upon discharge, he honed his technical skills at the San Francisco Art Institute, where one of his instructors encouraged him to put his documentary skills to use under a recognized master. Gibson took the suggestion and spent two years apprenticing under Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank.

Most interesting though, is how Gibson moved away from the realism of his teachers. His best work takes the mundane and then imbues it with mystery and significance. Gibson accomplishes this through juxtaposition, placing fragments of images next to or superimposed upon one another, thus allowing the viewer to begin to make connections that occurred in the artist’s mind. The connotations that arise are suggestive and erotic, often pointing to the beauty of the feminine form through use of everyday objects. For instance, a photo series called “Infanta” (1971-1998) featured close-ups of household objects that could have been perceived as sections of a female nude. Gibson’s masterful use of abstraction enables his viewers to reconsider how they perceive the world around them.