It would be easy to quickly walk through Team Gallery right now and feel like you have seen some pretty satisfying photos. However, Ryan McGinley’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” is more complex than its enjoyable simplicity may first imply.
ArtObserved On Site at the Ryan McGinley, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” at Team Gallery
More text and images after the jump…
Ryan McGinley, Jasper, 2010
Most notably, these images are a leap of faith away from his previous bodies of work, in which nude youth tear carefree through vast American landscapes, or are swallowed into the depths of elaborate caves and crevices. Here, the nudity remains, but the landscapes have been replaced by the generic non-space of the seamless backdrop of McGinley’s studio. Though the earlier work concentrated on fluid fantasy and documentation of youth’s recklessness and beauty, McGinley’s meticulous direction, props, and many takes were ever-present. Given, the studio is a mechanism of the construct and it is definitely a controlled setting, yet in this series McGinley seems to have pulled back from directing his subjects, admittedly using a “hype girl” to help the models relax into the shoot, stay comfortable and draw out their characters. He has basically taken to truly documenting the model’s personalities.
For the most part the images are basically frontal or descriptive, only highlighted by departures into obscure perspectives, such as in Bridgette (2010, 18” x 12”), who seems to be captured by a lens looking up from her belly button. Further, when it comes to models, McGinley’s aesthetic is quite specific, casting his subjects from various rock concerts around the world. One could even read the installation as a casting wall for the next adventure, though I assume that was not his intention.
Individually, these images are more reminiscent of the work of Peter Hujar, whose show, Second Avenue, at Mathew Marks in 2008 displayed simple portraits of the artist’s inner circle, most notably here the portrait David Wojnarowicz (1981, 14 ¾” x 14 7/8 ”). These images similarly bear subtly eroticized overtones of intimate relationships implied only through the distinct comfort of the sitter. Further, the models, ranging in age from 18 to 29, all look as though they may have been plucked from the uber hip following that faithfully trace the artist’s every move (see link below). In addition to continuing to exalt youth and beauty, the nudity in these photos also acts as a tool to re-humanize McGinley’s subjects, whom, again, viewers might imagine belong to an unapproachably fashionable crowd.
Again, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” is more complex than it may first seem. The discussions will go in many directions with questions abound over formal issues to the ideas of retouching. That, however, will be left for another time. McGinley has created a large cross-section of our generation, who seems to be coming to terms with the individuality of our bodies (given definitive sexes and those that are not so definitive), embracing our imperfections and differences. He has also shown us the fact that we are not a stoic people, capturing our hopes, fears, boldness, modesty, loss, and our engagement with the world all with a photograph. The show runs until April 17th.
– Stephen Wilson
Ryan McGinley [Official Website]
Ryan McGinley, “Everbody Knows This Nowhere” [Team Gallery]
A Real Nowhere Man [Paper Magazine]
Out of the Woods, Into the Studio with Ryan McGinley [Interview Magazine]
T Exclusive – Ryan McGinley [New York Times]
Studio Visit [New York Times]