It's a fine time to be a photography fan in Florida.
Less than a month ago, I reported on a terrific exhibit of Annie Leibovitz portraits on display through June 9 at the Norton Museum of Art (nortonmuseum.org) in West Palm Beach.
Now, there's an equally captivating collection of work by acclaimed Los Angeles photographer Herb Ritts showcased at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Curated by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, "Herb Ritts: L.A. Style" features vintage magazine covers and prints, including a selection of previously unpublished photos.
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In the 1980s, Ritts developed a style with black-and-white images that made distinctive use of light and shadows in portraits of celebrity athletes (Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner Kersee), pop stars (Elton John, Madonna, Britney Spears) and actors (Richard Gere, Mel Gibson).
"He had a good understanding of the history of art," said Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs at the Getty Museum. Many of the images were inspired by paintings, sculpture and film, as well as acclaimed photographers such as Richard Avedon.
Many of Ritts' most famous images are featured in the exhibit, as well as magazine covers such as Michael Jackson's 1992 picture on an edition of Rolling Stone. There also are examples of the videos Ritts directed for ad campaigns and music acts such as Chris Isaak ("Wicked Game").
All of it is stylishly presented by the Ringling Museum, which provides iPods with themed music, background information and recollections about Ritts and his work by some of his subjects. The exhibit continues through May 19, with several special events scheduled to complement the experience. Visit ringling.org for details on lectures, gallery walks and film events.
Of course, there's always plenty to see at the Ringling Museum, ranging from the permanent collection of works by Rubens, Velazquez, Van Dyck and others to Ca' d'Zan, John and Mable Ringling's Venetian gothic mansion on postcard-worthy Sarasota Bay.
In March, you could combine art with a Baltimore Orioles game (orioles.com) at Ed Smith Stadium, only a 15-minute drive from the museum. Cap it all with a meal at Marina Jack (marinajacks.com) on the bayfront.