Clifford Ross

Clifford Ross

Ross at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Vanity Fair party
Born (1952-10-15)October 15, 1952
New York City, NY, United States
Nationality United States American
Education Yale University, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
Known for Photography, Video Art

Clifford Ross (born October 15, 1952) is an American artist who has worked in multiple media, including sculpture, painting, photography and video. His work is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.


Born in New York City, Ross earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art and Art History from Yale University in 1974, with a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1973. Following an early career in painting and sculpture, Ross began his photographic work in 1995. A major milestone in his work is the Hurricane Series, begun in 1998. The black and white images in the series depict large-scale ocean waves shot by Ross from the water while tethered to an assistant on land.

In 2002, in order to photograph Mount Sopris in Colorado, Ross invented and received a patent for the R1 camera, and then went on to make some of the highest resolution large-scale landscape photographs in the world. In 2005, he designed and built the R2 360 degree video camera, as well as the i3 Digital Cyclorama, with Bran Ferren and other imaging scientists at Applied Minds, Inc. These creative steps into the digital world eventually led him to 3D computer generated animation and the creation of Harmonium Mountain I, a video with an original score by Philip Glass.

In 2009, the Austin Museum of Art exhibited a ten-year survey of Ross’ work "Outside Realism: Clifford Ross Photography," and "Clifford Ross: Mountains and Sea" opened at the MADRE/Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy.

In 2011, a large selection of Ross' Hurricane waves were included in "Coal + Ice," organized by Asia Society and exhibited at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing. The exhibition will travel to Shanghai, opening October 2015. The Zhejiang Art Museum in Hangzhou held two simultaneous exhibitions of Ross' work in 2014, "Hurricane Waves" and "Clifford Ross and Pan Gongkai: A Collaboration," a multimedia installation with Pan Gongkai, President of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

A major survey of Ross' work is on exhibition at MASS MoCA titled, "Landscape Seen & Imagined," until March 2016. In conjunction with the exhibition, MIT Press will publish two companion books, "Hurricane Waves" and "Seen & Imagined: The World of Clifford Ross."

Ross’ recent collaborations include a multimedia installation with Pan Gongkai, president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, and a 3.5 ton, 28' x 28' stained glass wall with architects Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam for the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Austin, Texas. Ross is a visiting artist with the NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Interactive Telecommunications Program, contributing editor for BOMB magazine, and editor of "Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics" (Abrams), and serves as Chair of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. His work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States, as well as in Europe, Brazil, and China, and can be found in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Hurricane Series

The series was originally photographed from 1998–2001 and then extended by Ross in 2008, when he chose to capture the imagery with a digital camera instead of film. All the waves in the series were generated by hurricanes which were shot while the artist was in the surf, often up to his chest, tethered to the shore with a safety rope.

The Hurricane series led to two other bodies of work, the Horizon series and Grain series. The Horizons are small images of a placid ocean with a low horizon line, which show minimal waves in the foreground and large expanses of sky above. In the Grain series, perhaps the most abstract and minimal photographs ever made, photography was reduced to pure tonality, the subject reduced to light and the 'grain' of the film’s emulsion.

Taken as a group, the Hurricanes, Horizons and Grain series compose a trilogy known as "Wave Music," which was the subject of an eponymous book of Ross’ images that includes an essay by Arthur Danto and an interview by A.M. Homes (BOMB (magazine)/Aperture 2005).

A second book covering the digital works in the series, "Hurricane Waves," was published in 2014 with essays by Phong Bui and Peng Feng.

Mountain Series

Typical of Ross’ dialectical working process, he found his next subject, far from the ocean in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado: Mount Sopris. For Ross, his experience of the sublime upon viewing the mountain scene was tied to his ability to see the overwhelming number of details that combined to create the majestic landscape in front of him. Ross’ desire to create a 'you are there' experience for those who had not visited Mount Sopris drove him to push the 'reality quotient' in photography past previous technical boundaries. Realizing the limitations of existing film and digital cameras, he invented the R1 high-resolution camera system, which uses military aerial film and a unique digital post-production process, capable of capturing the individual shingles on a barn from two miles away. The resulting photographs – the Mountain series – are among the highest resolution single shot landscapes in the world.

Mountain Redux and Harmonium Mountain

In a path similar to the one he took after the Hurricane series, Ross chose to recreate his experience of Mount Sopris in more abstract and poetic terms, focusing on elements of the original image and re-combining them in an array of dramatic and colorful structures. To create the Mountain Redux series of prints, Ross deployed complex computer-generated animation in new and inventive ways and printed them on custom manufactured paper from Japan.

His animation work then extended into video art when he built an extensive library of animated studies that provided the basis for the 5:26 short video known as Harmonium Mountain I, for which Philip Glass created an original score.

Harmonium Mountain I premiered at the Site Santa Fe International Biennial in 2010. Its second public showing, at the City University of New York, included a discussion with Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art and former curator at the Museum of Modern Art.

The film’s official New York premiere was at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, in the animated short films category.

In 2012, Ross collaborated with musician and composer Wu Tong on a second version of Harmonium Mountain which had its world premiere at China's Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in November of that year. The U.S. premiere of Harmonium Mountain II was included in Wu Tong's performance at the Asia Society in March 2015.

Big Picture Summit

In late 2004, Ross convened the first Big Picture Summit at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. The two-day meeting was attended by 25 imaging and visualization scientists representing a number of institutions from across the United States, including Sandia National Laboratories, NYU and MIT. This first summit led to the publication of a scientific white paper "Big, Bigger, Biggest: Inventing Systems for Immense Digital Images (and Beyond) " and two subsequent summit meetings at the University of Southern California and the National Geographic Society in 2005 and 2006.

i3 Cyclorama

Since 2004, Ross had been developing the i3 Digital Cyclorama with Bran Ferren and Applied Minds, Inc. It is a 360 degree immersive, high-resolution, rear projection theater with full surround audio and lighting. It is designed to enable artists, educators, scientists, and other content providers with a dramatic new media to display their work and their message.

Federal Courthouse in Austin, Texas

Ross was commissioned to execute a public art project for the new Federal Courthouse bordering Republic Square Park in Austin, Texas, designed by architects Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects for the General Services Administration.

Ross’ high-resolution photograph of the Texas Hill Country was the basis for the imagery of the 28’ x 28’ stained glass wall he has designed. It includes massive hydraulically controlled doors, which open to combine two large-scale interior spaces for public events. It was executed in conjunction with Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich, with whom Ross worked to combine centuries old stained glass techniques with 21st-century digital technology.

"Clifford Ross: Through the Looking Glass" by Hirmer Publishers, includes illustrations from all phases of design and construction of the stained-glass project, from pencil sketches and computer renderings to documentary photographs. The book includes an essay by celebrated architecture critic Paul Goldberger.

Lectures and Teaching

Ross has lectured in many university and museum settings, including Princeton, Yale, New York University, Guild Hall and The Watermill Center. Since 2004, he has been a visiting artist in residence at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Ross is a member of the Yale School of Art Dean’s Advisory Board, which includes artists Chuck Close, Richard Serra, Byron Kim, and Sheila Hicks.

He is an advisor to Under the Great Wide Open, an innovative, practice-based project which explores the convergence of Performance Arts, Design, and Technology, conceived by Parsons The New School for Design, in partnership with The Old Vic Tunnels.

Ross serves as Chair of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, he actively participates in panel discussions and conversations pertaining to Frankenthaler's exhibitions.

Published Works

Clifford Ross is the author of books on Abstract Expressionism and Edward Gorey, and is a contributing editor to BOMB (magazine).

More Selected Publications: Clifford Ross: Hurricane Waves, Essays by Phong Bui and Peng Feng. Catalog for the Zhejiang Art Museum Exhibition. March, 2014 At Ground Level: Lou Reed, November 1, 2013 The Art World Remembers Lou Reed. October 29, 2013 Through the Looking Glass. Clifford Ross & Paul Goldberger. Hirmer Publishers, 2013 Toni Ross. Clifford Ross. New York: Ricco Maresca Gallery, 2011 In the Moment. Plum TV. June 27, 2011 The World Renowned Hamptons Light. Plum TV. August 9, 2011 Photographer Clifford Ross. Yunfeng Zheng. Voices from Other Lands. China Radio International. October 7, 2011 The Art of Innovation. Jaci Judelson. Plum TV, 2009 Clifford Ross: Outside Realism. Brent Bayless. Austin Museum of Art. February 2009 Cyclorama. Andrew Adam Newman. Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen. WNYC. May 26, 2006 Photographer Sees The Big Picture. Richard Schlesinger, CBS Evening News. August 25, 2005.


Selected Solo Exhibitions:

Selected Group Exhibitions:



External links

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