Clifford Ross: Light | Waves, Action at Parrish Art Museum

Clifford Ross, "Wave LIV (Wood)"
Clifford Ross, "Wave LIV (Wood)," Photo: Clifford Ross Studio

If you’ve driven down Montauk Highway past the Parrish Art Museum recently, you’ve noticed something unusual on the side of the museum: two LED walls, each 50 feet wide. Displayed on these digital walls is the continuous crashing of sea waves in an extremely high-resolution computer-generated simulation of over three million moving particles. The piece, “Digital Wave,” is part of a new exhibition at the Parrish, Light | Waves, a mixed media installation of monumental prints on wood and immersive LED walls by artist Clifford Ross.

This show is part of the Parrish Art Museum’s Platform series, an open-ended invitation to an artist to consider the entire Museum as a potential canvas for works that transcend disciplinary boundaries and encourage new ways to experience art. Ross’s “Digital Wave” certainly fits the bill. But he also uses the interior, including the lobby, and other locations within the Parrish collection galleries, for Light | Waves.

After 20 years as a painter and sculptor, Ross became interested in photography, devoting himself to intensive experimentation in the darkroom. That’s when he began his Hurricane Wave series, which he photographed during storms off the Long Island coast in East Hampton in the 1990s, sometimes entering the surf during extreme weather, often up to his neck, while tethered to an assistant on land. In a press release, Museum Director Terrie Sultan said that “Ross’s fascination with the ocean off the shore of Long Island gains new meaning with his immersive installation at the Parrish, that places the viewer into the midst of crashing hurricane waves in a building situated between two bodies of water.”

Clifford Ross "Digital Waves" outside the Parrish Art Museum
Photo: Carl Timpone/

Ross became fascinated by the force and rhythm of nature, which he wanted to simulate and enhance. He invented a new camera system and ultimately developed his unique method of printing on wood. He did so with his Hurricane Wave series, taking his large-scale photographs and printing them—using ultra-violet cured ink and a commercial printer—directly onto sheets of maple veneer, a wood notable for the liveliness of its grain and warm color. Hurricane Waves on Wood features six large-scale prints of photographs measuring 12’ x 19’.

“With the image and material brought together in this way, a tension is created which mimics the drama of the ocean itself,” said Ross, adding that “Unlike the experience of viewing traditional photographs on paper, with [this series] the viewer is caught in a conundrum—between awareness of the image and awareness of the material on which it is printed.”

In addition to the exterior, the museum’s lobby is also illuminated by an 18’ x 18’ LED wall. The sheer size of the piece enables viewers to not only observe an artificially recreated environment, but to immerse themselves in a virtual ocean and to experience moving waves from many different points of view.

In conjunction with Light | Waves, the Parrish is presenting several related programs, including a concert inspired by the works of Clifford Ross as part of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival on Monday, August 14. Tangentially connected is a discussion with Water Mill environmental photographer Diane Tuft, whose timely new monograph, The Arctic Melt: Images of a Disappearing Landscape, reflects her journey to capture Arctic landscapes before global warming renders them unrecognizable. Clifford Ross himself will be at the museum Friday, August 25 in conversation with Art Basel Conversations host and author András Szánto.

Ross hopes visitors come away from this exhibition with their role as observers of nature sharpened. So visit, and don’t let him down.

Light | Waves is on display through October 15 at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Visit or call 631-283-2118 for more information.

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