If Jim Krantz’s work looks familiar, it is not surprising. Krantz, had been documenting the cinematic vistas of the American West for 20 years both for his personal work and on commercial assignments. His much published images caught the eye of appropriation artist, Richard Prince, known for re-photographing other people’s images and presenting them in a new “conceptual” context. Prince’s most famous series is his large scale reproductions of the cowboy images from Marlboro ads, and in something of an ironic compliment, when Prince had his mid-career retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum not only were his re-photographed images of Krantz’s work included in the exhibit but the image on all the banners flying along 5th Avenue was also one of Krantz’s. All uncredited.
As a result, Jim Krantz occupies a unique place in the history of contemporary art. His imagery blending western landscape photography with the figure of the cowboy updates the depiction romanticized in American popular culture but it is only in the last decade that he has been recognized as the source of some of the most desirable works of contemporary art. (The record price for a Prince re-photograph of a Marlboro cowboy advertisement is over $6 million.)
What makes Krantz’s images so strong is the technical underpinning of his work established when he studied with Ansel Adams. Perhaps more importantly, Krantz’s work reflects a dictum that he learned from Adams: “Technical proficiency leads to artistic freedom.” His range and versatility are his forte, working with ease in demanding and ever-changing conditions.
The photographs on view in this show – all part of Krantz’s personal fine art practice - have an emotive resonance as they balance the cowboys and horses of the West with the vastness of the western American landscape. While Krantz’s work covers all manner of photographic genres his focus and deep connection to The West remains a constant.
Now living in Los Angeles and with a relentless energy and disposition for experimentation, Krantz continues to work on commercial commissions as well as personal projects ranging from photographing the inhabitants of Chernobyl’s Forbidden Zone, to an examination of the spectators at a Spanish bullfight, to his latest series on test pilots (cowboys of the air) and the new planes they fly.
Krantz’s art has been embraced by the worlds of fashion and popular culture with collaborations with Supreme, Adam Kimmel, and Modernica Furniture. He has been honored by the American Photo Awards, The Art Directors Club, and with The Lucie Awards highest honor- the IPA International Photographer of the Year.