Ryan McGinley’s Lost Summer

In the past I’ve written appreciatively about the work of Ryan McGinley, thoough I wasn’t greatly overwhelmed by his Oscars portfolio. I have to admit I share much of Joerg Colberg‘s doubts about his current work on show at the Team Gallery in New York, although I’ve only seen it on the web, not in the flesh (and there is plenty of that in the show.) James Danziger, in another blog on my regular reading list, suggested that the opening of this show on 3 April was “the place to be in New York this week (if not the entire spring)” and goes on to includes most of the publicity from the Team web site. But it’s worth looking at his blog on the show, not just because it saves you a bit of clicking to see some of the pictures at a viewable size (Team does really need a site redesign) but for the comments that others have added.

McGinley is now 30, and frankly seems to have got lost, perhaps seduced by becoming too well-known. From being someone who said “I eat, sleep, move and breath photography 24-7” and trying to photograph the whole of his life and his fantasies, he has moved into everything being a production. “In the summer of 2007, for example, he traversed the United States with sixteen models and three assistants, shooting 4,000 rolls of film. From the resulting 150,000 photographs, he arduously narrowed down the body of work to some fifty images, the best of which are on display here at the gallery.”

Perhaps if he fired the models and assistants and got a life again the work would be more interesting – or he could have tried perhaps a million shots. Getting his inspiration from “the kinds of amateur photography that appeared in nudist magazines during the 60s and early 70s” may not have been such a good idea, though it may explain why the word that sprang into my mind on seeing this stuff was “insipid“. Actually some aren’t bad, but even the better images seem to me to be a kind of pastiche. One reminds me of my least favourite (but incredibly commercial) American painter of the 20th century, others I’ve seen on poster stalls in markets, as nude pictures of reader’s wifes…

One picture I do rather like is Firework Hysterics, which has a kind of medieval touch to it, and has a curiously flat figure floating in a starry black sky, though I have a suspicion that it works far better at the 272×400 pixels of the web site than as a 40×30 inch C-Print.

McGinley sprang into the photography world when still a student at Parsons School of Design in 1999, by printing a 50 page book ‘The Kids are All Right‘ on his computer, selling 50 copies and sending another 50 free to magazine editors and artists that he admired – including Larry Clark, who had photographed the young McGinley a part of his 1990 series “Skaters“. He also put up a show of this work in an empty area of a building being refurbished on West Broadway in New York in 2000. His initiative got him work for magazines while still a student and into a group show in a New York gallery in 2002, as well as shows in Berlin and Milan. In 2003 became the youngest artist to have a one-person show at The Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as shows at the Rhode Island School of Design and in Toronto. The ICP were perhaps a little slow in waiting until 2007 to give him the Infinity Young Photographer Award. The New York Times ran a feature on him at the time, as well as publishing my piece on About.com (no longer available on line.)

Tiny Vices has links to pictures of a number of his projects, including work from ‘Sun and Health‘ and ‘Irregular Regulars‘ and some more pictures elsewhere from I Know Where The Summer Goes.

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