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 Edward R. Ranney  (1942 - )

About: Edward R. Ranney


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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Illinois      Known for: photography-archaeology, ancient cultures

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Edward Ranney is a visual artist who has learned as much as he possibly can about ancient cultures and how they survive and continue to exist in contemporary society.  According to Eric Paddock, curator of photography at the Denver Art Museum, Ranney who has been photographing for almost 50 years, creates images that hide or disguise the artist’s viewpoint. “They are clean, sharp images distantly related to minimalism and Western topographic photographs,” Paddock said.  Think Hiroshi Sugimoto meets Ansel Adams.

An exhibit of 30 images from Ranney’s oeuvre is currently on display at the Denver Art Museum on the 4th floor of the Gio Ponti Building in the Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Art galleries in an exhibit titled "Shaped by Culture." Paddock intentionally decided to exhibit the work not in a stark photography gallery, but instead amidst the ancient artifacts of the Americas because “the photos lend geographical and physical context to the artwork,” he said.

The Denver Art Museum holds the finest collection of Spanish Colonial painting and furniture in the United States. The Frederick and Jan Mayer Center represents nearly every major culture in Mesoamerica, Central America, and South America, with particular strength in arts of Central America and Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Mayan ceramics.  The collection is unparalleled and comprised of over 5,500 objects exhibited in unified presentations and open storage and the Mayer’s also support fellowships and scholarships to promote advanced research. When Denver decided to host the Biennial of the Americas, including DAM and the Mayer Collection was already a foregone assumption.  From large stone sculpture to fine gold and jade objects the galleries are a perfect place to get lost in the ancient past all the while realizing how very similar we humans remain thousands of years later with our love for beautiful objects in gold, jade and silver perpetual.

The bulk of Ranney’s photos are found in a large conference room filled with tables and chairs. There is not much wall space open in the Galleries. A few photos are placed near doorways or passageways to other galleries. All are hung on the walls. I had hoped to find the works propped on easels to emphasize the “art” aspect of each work (though they would have taken more floor space and been far more susceptible to damage from visitors). Ranney’s photos, while exquisite, are not large. The prints shown are no larger than 22” x 28” and most are 11”x 17” or as small as 6” x 9” and significant bilingual wall text accompanies each photo.  Many of the works get lost in the setting, the black and white images fading into the background, and while the museum was filled with visitors on the Saturday I visited, the few who had found their way from King Tut to the 4th Floor paid any attention to Ranney’s photos. A shame because each photo is a quiet meditation on a temple, a forgotten past, or the beauty found in perfectly fitted stonework. I learned from two 1970 Gelatin silver prints “Carved Figures, North Court, Palace Complex, Palenque, Mexico” (above left) and “Stela A, Copán, Honduras” that Mayan artists had distinctive local styles. “Palenque’s sculptors excelled at individualized portraits in shallow relief. Copán’s rulers, carved on vertical monuments called stelae, have idealized faces and meticulously rendered costumes and regalia,” read the wall text. Something I could then see in the actual Palenque and Copán sculptures on display.

Leanne Goebel, "Edward Ranney's New World Landscapes:, Adobe airstream: the online magazine for citizens of culture, July 17, 2010

Biography from The Fisher Press – Gallery, Fine Books and Prints:
Born: Chicago Illinois, March 4, 1942


BA, Yale University, 1964

Recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships to Peru; JS Guggenehim Memorial Fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowship; Northern Arts Council Grant, Great Britain; Eliot Porter Award, Santa Fe.

Individual exhibitions have been presented at Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago Cultural Center; University of New Mexico Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe; Stanford University Art Museum; Photographer’s Gallery, London; Side Gallery, Newcastle; Miraflores Cultural Center and Sequencias Gallery, Lima.

He has held visting lectureships at The College of Santa Fe, The University of New Mexico, Princeton University, Colorado College, Institute of Design, Chicago, University of Lima and the Gaudí Institute, Lima.

Publications include STONEWORK OF THE MAYA, Univ of New Mexico Press, 1974; MONUMENTS OF THE INCAS, New York Graphic Society, 1982 & 1990; PRAIRIE PASSAGE, Univ of Illinois Press, 1998; THE NEW WORLD’S OLD WORLD, UNM Press, ‘03; THE HEIGHTS OF MACHU PICCHU, Limited Editions Club, New York, 1998; EDWARD RANNEY PHOTOGRAPHS, THE JOHN B ELLIOTT COLLECTION, Princeton University Art Museum, 2003.

Institutions that own photographs include the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal; the Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Princeton University Art Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

In 1977 he directed an Earthwatch Expedition to print and file the Martín Chambi photographic archive in Cusco, and in collaboration with the Chambi family curated and printed the retrospective exhibition MARTIN CHAMBI, PHOTOGRAPHER OF CUSCO, at the University of New Mexico Art Museum, portions of which were subsequently shown at MOMA, NY, the Photographer’s Gallery, London, and the Kunsthaus, Zurich.  In 2001 he collaborated with the Museo de Arte in Lima organizing the exhibition, La recuperación de la memoria, El primer siglo de la fotografía, PERU 1842-1952, with his essay Martín Chambi, de Coasa y Cusco, published in the exhibition catalogue. His essay, "Images of a Sacred Geography", was published in THE NEW WORLD’S OLD WORLD, University of New Mexico Press, 2003.

Edward Ranney currently serves on the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Council on Photography, the Photographic Archive Project, Houston, and is a member of the Institute of Andean Studies, Berkeley.

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