The New York Times | Showcasing the Diversity of the South
May 6, 2022 - Claudia Dreifus for The New York Times
Arising from one man’s collection, the Ogden Museum strives to serve a broad audience while showing that Southern art is not merely regional.
NEW ORLEANS — A signature work at a recent exhibit at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art is a photograph of a cellphone showing on its screen the framed image of an antebellum mansion.
It is a photograph within a photograph. But what makes it an eye-catcher is that the pictured iPhone is clearly in the hand of a Black man, RaMell Ross.
Mr. Ross, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, artist and photographer, often documents the people and land of Hale County, Ala.
Over the decades, some of the giants of Southern photography — Walker Evans, William Eggleston and William Christenberry — have made Hale County their subject. They are, of course, white men. By featuring this particular image, Mr. Ross and the curators of the Ogden are demonstrating their determination to show this place in a new way.
Mr. Ogden’s collection was broad. And huge. It documented almost every aspect of Southern art, from the colonial period through the present day. By the 1990s, he said, he owned at least 1,000 paintings, sculptures and photographs.
Among his treasures was a room-size work, a mural really, by the abstract expressionist Ida Kohlmeyer; vibrant scenes from Clementine Hunter, who spent her whole life on a plantation; a Sam Gilliam drape painting, and a work by Julian Onderdonk, a Texas landscape artist famous for his depictions of fields of bluebonnets. There were canvasses rolled up under the beds; the cupboards were full of Sophie Newcomb vases and George Ohr pottery. Continue Reading