Famed NYC-based photographer Ryan McGinley is set to open two new exhibitions at TEAM Gallery in NYC on Wednesday, May 2: Grids and Animals. The latter will feature color studio portraits of live animals with nude models, and the former will feature a series of works on three huge grids that feature individual portraits of fans at concerts. These shows mark the first time a single artist has had simultaneous shows in both Team spaces.
The exhibition is his first made up exclusively of selections from this growing, and ambitious, body of work. The artist visited various sanctuaries, zoos, and rescue establishments across the United States, erecting a mobile studio wherever possible and working with a number of pre-eminent animal trainers. The animals are not mere props in photographs of people; on the contrary, McGinley considers them the subjects of these images. There exists both tension and tenderness between the models and wild animals, as they claw, clutch, nibble, and hug one another.
This body of work has two starkly contrasting sides, epitomized by two of the photographs on view. In the comical Dakota (Marmoset), a tiny monkey hangs from a male model’s pubic hair, partly obscuring his genitals. The human legs and torso are covered in scratches and the marmoset stares directly at the camera, wearing an expression of apparent shock. In Parakeets, a flock of lushly colored birds tears across a blue background while a girl, face obscured by a blurred green and white wing, stretches out her arms in an imitation of flight. The barroom roughhouse of the former and dulcet elegance of the latter act as the exhibition’s counterweights. Where the first piece is grotesque and lascivious, as humorous as it is horrifying, the other — a gushing moment of poetic beauty — strikes a profound emotional and visual harmony.
These photographs are studies in animal bodies, their strangeness and seductivity. As a collection, they highlight the similarities and differences between the various species’ anatomies, the familiarity and relative regularity of the human form providing a blank slate against which to read the animals. The Pop art attitude generated through the use of candy-colored backgrounds serves to make the images all the more attractive, introducing an internal tension between their initially inviting appearances and the sometimes off-putting subject matter. These colors, in tandem with the improbable relationships between the animals and people, situate the photographs firmly within the province of the surreal and psychedelic.
This exhibition consists of three huge grids of individual portraits of fans at concerts. Over the past four years, Ryan McGinley has photographed faces in the crowd at a number of large outdoor music festivals across the United States and in Europe. These recurring events run for two or three days and feature a relatively wide variety of artists. McGinley and the members of his crew - each of whom has been given explicit instruction - spend their days from noon until well past midnight attending performances, shooting the fans from myriad vantage points, afterwards camping overnight on the fairgrounds. In this way, they become deeply involved observers, both physically and emotionally immersed in the throng while still maintaining a certain sense of removal. The resulting images show ecstatic faces awash with colored light, each larger than life size.
Animals and Grids
May 2—June 2, 2012
New York City