“The study of art that does not make the strong less willing to oppress the weak means little.”
– Booker T. Washington
Ronald Feldman Fine Arts presents new works by Richard Ross in a solo exhibition opening January 5th, 2013. Ross takes as his focus the lives and stories of incarcerated youth. The exhibition, entitled Juvenile-In-Justice, is composed of photographs Ross has taken, excerpts from his interviews with those in the juvenile courts and detention facilities, and items he has seen during his visits to juvenile incarceration centers across the United States. Over the course of 5 years, Ross visited more than 200 institutions in 31 states and spoke with more than 1,000 juveniles.
Ross gains access to the spaces of incarceration, and those working and living within them, through a complicated process of obtaining permission from all levels of administration, permission that is often at the discretion of individuals working in the system. “I wanted to give a voice to those with the least amount of authority in any U.S. confinement system,” writes Ross.
In 1995, over 108,700 juveniles were in detention, correctional, or shelter facilities each day according to available data. Currently, juvenile courts in the U.S. annually process an estimated 1.7 million cases of youth charged with a delinquency offense – approximately 4,600 delinquency cases per day. In the U.S., children as young as 11 have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Nearly 3 of every 4 youth confined in a residential facility for delinquency are not in for a violent felony crime. The U.S.’s heavy reliance on juvenile incarceration is unique among the world’s developed nations.
Ross recently published a monograph, also titled Juvenile In Justice (2012), which includes selected photographs and interview excerpts from the series and a foreward by American public radio host, Ira Glass. Glass writes, “Richard Ross has managed to take very expressive pictures of these very inexpressive places… it turns the abstract idea of juvenile justice into something as real as a bed, a t-shirt, a toilet.”
Ross currently teaches at University of California, Santa Barbara. He previously published a book of photographs, Architecture of Authority (Aperture Press, 2007). He has received support for his work from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Lannan Foundation as well as a Guggenheim fellowship in 2007. His photographs have appeared in Artforum, Financial Times, Harper’s and Newsweek, and on Wired.com, PBS Newshour and NPR. Since Juvenile-In-Justice became public, Ross has been giving license to use the images, free of charge, to all facilities and non-profit advocates in the field.