Born in New York City in 1952, Ross graduated from Yale University in 1974, where he received a B.A. in Art and Art History. He began his career as a painter and sculptor, and in 1994 became deeply involved with photography and other media. His singular goal has been to create work that relates to the sublime in nature. Using both realistic and abstract means to achieve his goals, he often develops radically new approaches to existing media.
He began his well-known Hurricane Wave series in 1996, entering the surf during extreme weather, often up to his neck, while tethered to an assistant on land. His photographic techniques expanded over time, using digital methods, inkjet printing, and ultimately developing his unique method of printing on wood.
In 2002, Ross invented and patented his revolutionary R1 camera to photograph Mount Sopris in Colorado, which allowed him to produce some of the highest resolution large-scale landscape photographs in the world – his Mountain series. More recently, he has developed new techniques for generating computer-based videos, including Harmonium Mountain I, with an original score by Philip Glass, and his Digital Waves.
The artist’s collaborations include work with Pan Gongkai, renowned ink painter and President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Chinese composer and musician, Wu Tong, and work with architects Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam on the Austin Federal Courthouse where he created The Austin Wall, a 3.5 ton, 28' x 28' stained-glass wall. The building and Ross’s Wall were recognized with an Honor Award for Federal Design from the U.S. General Services Administration in 2014.
MASS MoCA presented Landscape: Seen & Imagined, a major mid-career retrospective in 2015. In conjunction with the exhibition, MIT Press published two companion books, Hurricane Waves and Seen & Imagined: The World of Clifford Ross, including essays by David Anfam, Quentin Bajac, Phong Bui, Jay Clarke, Arthur Danto, Jack Flam, Nicholas Negroponte, Jock Reynolds, Orville Schell, and Joe Thompson.
Ross’s works have been exhibited in museums around the world, and are in many collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Parrish Art Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.