David LaChapelle: The Fellini of Photography Returns to Fine Art

David LaChapelle: Flowers, Early Fall

David LaChapelle: Pieta With Courtney Love, 2006

David LaChapelle: Christina Aguilera

David LaChapelle: Eminem

David LaChapelle: Amanda Lepore, Breast-Feeding

David LaChapelle: Madonna

David LaChapelle: David Beckham

David LaChapelle: The Fellini of Photography Returns to Fine Art

During the course of his artistic career, David LaChapelle was hired by Andy Warhol, fired by Madonna, photographed Pamela Anderson, Lady Gaga, and Hillary Clinton, and made a star of the transgender personality Amanda Lepore. He earned millions and spent much of that on his self-financed movie about an urban dance form created in the rough neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles. When the film, Rize, failed to attract a large audience, the weary LaChapelle packed up his career and disappeared.

Now, LaChapelle is back in New York briefly, overseeing his one-man show at a Madison Avenue art gallery and a separate commissioned installation that is opening in the lobby of the Lever House on Park Avenue. With their erotic gloss, their sizzling aesthetics and their slick production values, the photographs at Michelman Fine Art are recognizably the work of a man who in his editorial work for Vanity Fair, Interview, Rolling Stone and others photographed David Duchovny dressed in Lycra bondage trousers, Kanye West as Black Jesus, a turbaned Elizabeth Taylor looking like a $5 fortune teller, Eminem naked but for a well-placed prop and other stars like Tupac Shakur (wearing soap bubbles), Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga baring their souls for the camera, along with a good deal more.

At the Lever House, however, the artist has returned to techniques he employed when, at the very beginning of his career, long before he became the go-to video director for pop music divas, he used naïve, childlike forms like linked paper chains to make his work. In the space that in the past has presented exhibitions of works by artists such as Barbara Kruger and Damien Hirst, Mr. LaChapelle has hung the chains from walls and ceiling in looping festoons. At first glance, the stapled links only look like colorful decorations for a children’s party, but when viewed more closely they reveal images of naked bodies, as an allegory for human connection.

Viewers can read more about David LaChapelle’s return to the art scene in The New York Times here.

David LaChapelle: Elton John/Candle in the Wind (Marilyn)

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/12216162 w=720&h=460]

David LaChapelle: Elton John/Philadelphia Freedom

Photo-Gallery: David LaChapelle/The Fellini of Photography Returns to Fine Art

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Sam Taylor-Wood: “Still Life” and the Acceptance of Mortality

Sam Taylor-Wood was born in London in 1967 and is a contemporary artist who works mostly in video, video installations and photography. She has been identified as one of the leading figures in the younger British Artist Group. Sam Taylor-Wood’s video installations and photographs depict human dramas and isolated emotional situations, such as a quarreling couple and tense social gatherings, people shown in solitary, awkward, or vulnerable moments. These psychologically evocative artistic narratives are often presented on a grand scale, in room-encompassing video projections or 360-degree photographic panoramas that are accompanied by sound tracks. Taylor-Wood was nominated for England’s Turner Prize in 1998.

Her works after 1996 have often featured celebrity friends: Elton John was included in a large photo-work, and he commissioned Taylor-Wood to make a promotional video starring Robert Downey Jr. for his recording of I Want Love (1986). In 2002, she was commissioned by London’s National Portrait Gallery to make a video portrait of David Beckham sleeping. Taylor-Wood’s film David (2004) allowed gallery visitors to watch Beckham, who was then England’s football Captain, sleep. It provided viewers with an intimate, serene vision of an otherwise heavily exposed celebrity. She has also been a long-time collaborator with The Pet Shop Boys, having produced films for their Somewhere concerts in London. She was also a guest vocalist on two Pet Shop Boys produced songs, their rendition of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Je t’aime…moi non plus” and Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.”

Still Life (2001) has been said to be one of the most classical works in contemporary art. It carved a permanent record for itself in art history with hardly any commentary. This is not just a Still Life. It is based upon a particular type of still life painting that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands. It is part of a classical genre that contains symbols of change or death as a reminder of their inevitability. Its focus was upon confronting the vanity of worldly things through often subtle signs of elapsing time and decay. Some of the older works had obvious references like skulls, but others simply had a watch or slightly rotting fruit.

Sam Taylor-Wood’s film represents yet another step in that direction: the image, beautiful as ever in Taylor-Wood’s universe, decomposes itself. By the end of the short film, nothing is left but a grey amorphous mass. But upon closer inspection, one detail distinguishes this picture from its predecessors. The plastic ballpoint pen, a cheap contemporary object. One that doesn’t seem to decay and doesn’t seem to be a part of the universal process of self-disappearing life. Is this what is really left here to stay after we are gone, this nothingness, this ridiculous attribute of ourselves?

This is a very poor reflection of our vanity. We have become more and more accustomed to believing that our feelings of real success and personal worth are to be measured vicariously against the lives of celebrities, business magnates and influential politicians, along with the images that they convey of power, wealth, designer fashions, and rich interiors filled with gold and crystal. But Taylor-Wood’s message is that we don’t need all of that. We get the point, nothing more is necessary. A simple basket, some light. Time. And a cheap plastic pen.

Sam Taylor-Wood: Still Life and Mortality

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