Herb Ritts: Supermodels

20 February - 22 March 2014

Edwynn Houk Gallery will present an exhibition of rare, vintage photographs by Herb Ritts, focusing exclusively on the five models in his iconic work, Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989.

Herb Ritts' indelible photographs came to define the era of the Supermodel, capturing the top models of the time in images that are, at turns, strong, vulnerable, sexy, intriguing and above all beautiful. While emblematic of the 1980s and '90s, his classic images transcend the boundaries of celebrity portraiture at the end of the 20th century. Ritts himself did not distinguish between his commercial work and his personal projects. In fact, the division between fashion photography and fine art has eroded significantly in the past few decades thanks in part to retrospectives of his work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1996 and at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2012.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ritts took inspiration from his surrounding environs, often shooting on nearby beaches and deserts where the figure could engage with the natural elements. He preferred the strong light of the late-afternoon sun, which produced bold shadows and warm tones that complemented the strength and beauty conveyed in his compositions. Influenced by Man Ray, Edward Weston, and Irving Penn, among others, Ritts had a great ability to synthesize the visual influences of Classical sculpture and Modernist photography into his work, while forging his own unique style, which was distinctly of its time and place.


Growing up immersed in the LA culture, Ritts was comfortable around celebrities and able to put them at ease, as evidenced by the sensuous and sometimes experimental nudes he created of the leading models of the time. They seemed to trust him implicitly for, as Cindy Crawford put it, "The way Herb Ritts photographed you was the way you wanted the world to see you." The 1989 image of the five supermodels began as a cover shoot for Rolling Stone. Ritts arranged four of the models, long limbs intertwined, in the nude. The sensual yet delicate pose harkens back to Edward Weston's portrait of Charis in the doorway. Christy Turlington, who was not originally at the shoot, was called by her fellow models and hopped in for the last few frames, completing the balanced composition of the iconic quintet.

Herb Ritts (1952-2002) began his photographic career in the late 1970's and quickly gained a reputation for his art and commercial photography. In addition to portraits and editorial fashion shoots for VogueVanity FairInterview and Rolling Stone, he created successful advertising campaigns for a number of high-profile brands. He went on to direct numerous influential and award winning music videos and commercials. In 1991 he received the Infinity Award for Applied Photography from the International Center for Photography in New York. His fine art photography has been exhibited widely worldwide and is included in significant private and public collections, including the Getty Museum, Los Angeles and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.