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Clifford Ross's new monumental work 'Light Waves II' debuts at San Francisco's Fort Mason Center
Clifford Ross’s “Digital Wave 9” displayed on LED wall.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- This September, multimedia artist Clifford Ross’s new site-specific work Light Waves II will be exhibited as part of COAL + ICE, an exhibition offering a visual exploration of the impact of climate change on our modern world. On view September 4-23, 2018 at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, Light Waves II will be the culminating work in the documentary photography and video exhibition, which illuminates the trajectory of climate change – from dirty coal mines deep within the Earth, to the vanishing glaciers of the Greater Himalayas, down the rivers and to the oceans. Ross’s pioneering artwork offers a powerful visual reflection on climate change.

Light Waves II is composed of two 18 x 18 foot LED walls that feature dramatic, computer-generated videos inspired by hurricane waves. The new work embraces abstract forms drawn directly from the artist’s close observation of nature, which he pursued with his Hurricane Wave photographs, shot during raging storms off the coast of Long Island while tied to an assistant on shore. When Ross found it impossible to successfully capture the same scene with video, he turned to advanced computer modeling and animation to try to capture the movement of the waves.

Ross began his career as a painter and became interested in photography and multimedia work in the mid-nineties. Throughout his career, Ross has always been interested in the sublime and romantic aspects of nature, and much of his work aims to depict it through realism or evoke it through abstraction. The Digital Waves are inevitably linked to the fact that when we are looking at nature, we are also seeing our destructive imprint on it. Light Waves II evokes both nature’s majesty and the impact of climate change.

“Due to climate change, nature is no longer natural,” said Clifford Ross. “My work with nature is now understood in an environmental context, even though I’m not a political artist. It’s an unexpected twist, since most of my artistic heroes are not political at all—J.M.W. Turner, Jackson Pollock, and Morris Louis—three masters who reached to abstraction in pursuit of the sublime.”

Each LED wall of Light Waves II carries a five minute video program made up respectively of Digital Wave 9 and 1 (length 1:00 minute), Genesis 1 and 2 (length 0:45 seconds), and a simultaneous display of Turner 2 (length 3:20)—the newest and most complex video Ross has made for this series. Each computer-generated wave contains over 3,000,000 dots, which are displayed on the 1,982,464 bulbs that make up each wall. To create the effects he desires with a computer, he alters gravity, lights the scene, moves the camera, paints with color, and compounds multiple waves to create imagery that we have not seen before. The videos that open each cycle, Wave 9 and Wave 11, were directly inspired by Jackson Pollock, whose drip paintings conjure the spiritual nature, and Morris Louis, whose Veils used poured color to create a new visual phenomenon on the canvas.

"As the climax to our exhibit, Ross’s monumental work on hurricane waves speaks to the apocalyptic end-point of what viewers have just seen in the exhibition—the damage that we are doing to our planet through run-away climate change,” said Orville Schell, COAL + ICE Executive Producer.

Clifford Ross was born in New York City in 1952. He maintains a studio there while living and working in Long Island, N.Y. Ross graduated from Yale University in 1974 with a B.A. in Art and Art History, and then started his career as a painter. By the mid-1990s, he became interested in photography, pioneering breakthrough techniques, and in 2002 invented and patented the revolutionary R1 camera, which allowed him to produce some of the highest resolution, large-scale landscape photographs in the world. In 2015 Ross was the subject of a large mid-career survey Landscape: Seen & Imagined at MASS MoCA. Ross’s works have been exhibited in museums around the world and are in many collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“Like Daguerre the inventor, Clifford Ross oscillates between the worlds of art and science…invoking a distinctly American practice of creating realistic and spectacular representations of the sublime.” - Quentin Bajac, Chief Curator of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art

COAL + ICE is a visual exploration of the consequences of climate change triggered by the continued use of fossil fuels. This September, COAL + ICE will make its U.S. premiere in San Francisco and be a public, cultural companion to California Governor Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit. Co-curated by Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas and renowned exhibition designer Jeroen de Vries COAL + ICE visually narrates the consequences triggered by the continued use of fossil fuels, with works from over 30 photographers from around the world. COAL + ICE is a project of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, in collaboration with the Asia Society Northern California Center.

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