The Frist Art Museum presents Ron Jude: 12 Hz, an exhibition of large-scale black-and-white photographs that defy customary expectations of landscape imagery, revealing the planet’s raw materials and the often-imperceptible forces that shape its appearance. Organized by the Barry Lopez Foundation for Art & Environment, the exhibition will be on view from May 26 through August 13, 2023.
In twenty photographs depicting glacial formations, lava flows, tectonic patterns, and tidal currents, Oregon-based photographer Ron Jude (b. 1965) reminds us that geological phenomena operate indifferently to our presence, even in the face of an ecological crisis. The images, stripped bare of evidence of human existence, challenge the myth of human centrality. Neither sentimental, nor moralistic, nor explicitly political, the body of work is a potent visual statement that may offer some solace in documenting the persistence of the physical world. The exhibition’s title, 12 Hz—referencing the lowest threshold of human hearing—alludes to the limits of perception as well as the powerful yet often undetectable forces that shape the physical world.
“Naming photographs after an invisible sonic property may seem counterintuitive, but just as we might strain to isolate a nearly undetectable tone, Jude’s images challenge us to consider other scales of time, motion, and light that exist at the boundaries of our awareness,” writes Toby Jurovics, director of the Barry Lopez Foundation for Art & Environment. “Rather than picturing an idyllic wilderness or one comfortably domesticated, Jude explores what lies behind and beneath the landscape—the earth reduced to rock, ice, and lava, free of our imprint.” Landscapes appear in Jude’s earlier work, but in those series, they operate as a setting, rather than the main subject. In this collection, the landscape takes center stage.
Though the photographs were made in Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Iceland, Jude omits the specific locations of each photograph to underscore the universality of the themes in the exhibition. “No matter where you live—be it here in Middle Tennessee or in California—tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, or wildfires can be abrupt, devastating reminders of the extraordinary power of the earth’s systems,” said Frist Art Museum senior curator Katie Delmez. “In surprising and challenging ways, Ron Jude’s photographs lead us to contemplate how our presence and endeavors can directly impact our environment, but at the same time, they are humbling reminders that nature marches on with or without us around.”
12 Hz is accompanied by an audio installation by Joshua Bonnetta, Pressure Plates I & II. Two interacting compositions combine field recordings with manipulated seismic recordings collected from an array of sensors that record vertical ground motion. Both sets of recordings are site-specific to Jude’s photographs and reveal similar imperceptible forces of the earth’s geological systems at work both above and below the surface. Continually repeating on a loop, Bonnetta’s composition weaves in and out, rising and falling from opposite sides of the gallery against the rhythm of Jude’s photographs. The seismic data was generously provided by Leif Karlstrom of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oregon.
Ron Jude was born in Los Angeles in 1965 and raised in rural Idaho. He earned a BFA in studio art from Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, in 1988, and an MFA from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1992. His photographs have been widely exhibited around the world and are held in the permanent collections of the George Eastman Museum; the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Jude is also the author of twelve books—most recently, 12 Hz (2020). He has received grants or awards from Light Work; San Francisco Camerawork; the Aaron Siskind Foundation; and the Friends of Photography and was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2019. He lives and works in Eugene, Oregon, where he is a professor of art at the University of Oregon.
For opening hours and additional information, visit FristArtMuseum.org or call 615.244.3340.