Download PDF

Artist Biography

Matthew Rolston (USA, b. 1955) is an artist who works in photography and video; his practice centers on portraiture, most notably subjects drawn from celebrity culture. Rolston, who lives and works in Los Angeles, studied at Chouinard Art Institute (Los Angeles, California) and Otis College of Art & Design (Los Angeles, California). In 2006, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, California) where he had studied photography from 1976-1978. While still a student at Art Center, Rolston was discovered by Andy Warhol, who immediately commissioned portraits for Interview magazine. Thus began an extraordinary career; and for the next 25 years, Matthew Rolston’s photographs have been published in Interview, Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, and over 100 covers of Rolling Stone.


Matthew Rolston

Along with his friend Herb Ritts, Rolston was a member of an influential group of photographers (among them, Bruce Weber, Annie Liebovitz and Steven Meisel) to emerge from the 1980’s magazine scene. Rolston’s early photographs from this era are notable for their distinctive and glamorous lighting style, surrealistic tableaus, and detail-rich sets. His imagery has helped define contemporary aesthetics of American portrait photography and truly embodies modern glamour.

Robert Sobieszek, the legendary former Curator of Photography for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), compared Rolston’s work to the “four mega-greats of the ’50s and ’60s: Avedon, Hiro, Penn and Skrebneski… I think Rolston is one of the foremost editorial, glamour/fashion photographers working today,” he said, “giving us immensely sophisticated, exciting, glamorous shots and portraits that surround us daily.”

Matthew Rolston is also a filmmaker who works in video. His short film The Most Beautiful Woman in the World (2011, color, 3:00 min) screened as part of SF Shorts: The San Francisco International Festival of Short Films (2013), among others. In spring of 2013, The Whitney Museum of American Art (as part of Blues for Smoke) screened Whatta Man (1994, color, 4:52 min) in Through the Lens of the Blues Aesthetic: An Evening of Short Films Selected by Kevin Everson (April, 2013). Other films include Be Without You (2005, color, 4:09 min) for which he won “Best Director” (MTV Video Music Awards, 2006); and Candyman (2007, color, 3:18 min) for which he won “Best Director” with Christina Aguilera (MTV Video Music Awards, 2007).

Rolston’s photographs have been exhibited at museums and institutions. Selected group shows include Beauty CULTure (with Lauren Greenfield, Herb Ritts, Andres Serrano, and Carrie Mae Weems, 2011), The Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, California; The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion (curated by Mark Francis and Margery King, 1997), The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Fashion and Surrealism, FIT Gallery, New York (1987), which traveled to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK (1988). His photographs are in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the National Portrait Gallery (Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at The Smithsonian, Washington D.C.).

Three monographs have been published of Rolston’s work: Big Pictures, A Book of Photographs (1991), a collection of early photographs (introduction by Tim Burton) published by Bulfinch Press, New York; beautyLIGHT, Pictures at a Magazine (2008), a survey drawn from twenty years of Rolston’s celebrity portrait photographs, published by teNeues, Germany; and Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits (2012), published by Pointed Leaf Press, New York.

In 1998, Mr. Rolston endowed the “Matthew Rolston Scholarship for Photography and Film,” at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California. He remains actively involved in this program, as a mentor and guest lecturer. Matthew Rolston’s fine art is represented by both Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, Los Angeles and the Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles.