D A V I D L A C H A P E L L E
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Lever House Art Collection, New York
2 June through 2 September 2011
David LaChapelle‚Äôs career as an artist began with his hero, Andy Warhol, who offered him his first professional photography job at Interview Magazine in the early 1980s. Working at Interview Magazine, LaChapelle quickly began photographing some of the most famous faces of the times, and before long, he was shooting for major editorial publications of the world. His striking images have appeared in magazines such as Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Rolling Stone and i-D. In his twenty-year career in publishing, he has photographed personalities as diverse as Tupac Shakur, Madonna, Amanda Lepore, Eminem, Philip Johnson, Lance Armstrong, Pamela Anderson, Lil‚Äô Kim, Uma Thurman, Elizabeth Taylor, David Beckham, Paris Hilton, Jeff Koons, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hillary Clinton, Muhammad Ali, and Britney Spears, to name just a small selection.
His latest series of works employ the use of his own photography in collage format, deconstructing the image he has photographed, and reconstructing them into new works. The artist is creating both a record and mirror of all facets of popular culture today. His work transcends the fashion or celebrity magazine context it was frequently made for, and now bridges the gap between commercial art and fine art.
Dominating the exhibition is LaChapelle‚Äôs RAFT OF ILLUSION: RAGING TOWARD TRUTH, a grandly scaled collage of photographs, watercolor, drawing, and found materials. It references Theodore Gericault‚Äôs renowned painting, ‚ÄúThe Raft of the Medusa‚Äù (1818-19), that depicts the deadly aftermath of the wreck of a French naval frigate. But LaChapelle presents a dramatic scene of bodies swirling in rough waters that are alive and striving for life or ‚Äútruth,‚Äù unlike Gericault‚Äôs dead and dying victims. LaChapelle created his epic allegory using large-scale photographs that he has taken of friends and models, and staged a tableau by cutting and tearing individual elements, adding depth with layered sections, and reassembling them into a composition that clearly reveals the artist‚Äôs hand at work. As the artist states: ‚ÄúThese marks connect my viewers to the living, breathing humanity I focus on in my work. The subjects represent interactions between the human and the natural world.‚Äù
LaChapelle‚Äôs playful CHAIN OF LIFE presents hundreds of paper chains created from photographs of the human form, front and back, that transform the grade-school craft into a literal chain of connected bodies. The linked figures reveal humanity‚Äôs need for one being to affect or connect to the next. The chains weave and curve, dip and rise through the lobby space, transforming the decorative roots of the paper chain into something deeper and more resonant.
The third aspect of the installation are ADAM AND EVE SWIMMING UNDER A MICROSCOPE, two circular configurations attached directly to the glass windows. Individually, the figures appear like they are swimming youth, joyful and carefree, and from a distance the forms merge into a stained glass effect as seen in the windows of Notre Dame, Chartres, and the Reims Cathedral. LaChapelle describes them: ‚ÄúThe work becomes an allegory of life itself, cell-like as if seen through a microscope. The individuality of a human being emerges into an ethereal vision of our cellular origin‚Äîthe human origin.‚Äù
David LaChapelle was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1963, and studied at North Carolina School of Arts, Winston-Salem; Art Students League, New York; and the School of Visual Arts, New York. His work has been exhibited in numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, including Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art; Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover; Museum of Conteporary Art, Toronto; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York; Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York; and is represented by Fred Torres Collaborations, New York. David LaChapelle lives in Maui, Hawaii.
Richard D. Marshall, Curator
Works in the exhibition:
RAFT OF ILLUSION: RAGING TOWARD TRUTH, 2011
Collage of photographs, paper, watercolor, pencil, and printed materials; 14 ft. 6 in, wide by 10 ft. 6 in. high
CHAIN OF LIFE, 2011
Chains of photographic paper rings; approx. 14,000 rings
ADAM SWIMMING UNDER A MICROSCOPE: PLAGUE OF AN ANCIENT CITY and EVE SWIMMING UNDER A MICROSCOPE: PLAGUE OF AN ANCIENT CITY, 2011
Two circles of translucent photographic stickers adhered to windows; each 8 ft. diameter
Lever House Art Collection, New York