Living The Dream

Adolescent nudity, sexually-aware innocence, whimsical beauty and more adolescent nudity: This month Ryan McGinley’s photography is part of yet another major exhibition in Washington, ‘Portraiture Now’. It seems there’s no stopping this guy, six years after he first snatched the throne as photographic enfant terrible and found himself famous on both sides of the Atlantic, torn out and blu-tacked to every undergraduate’s weed den.

There is very little left to write at the moment about McGinley. We all know too well the love story of the homosexual skater boy with a vision, who sold broken sofas and snapped drunken drug-dabbling teenagers for Saatchi, who paid a bunch of pretty childlike models to run around fields naked and be his artistic muse, who is still modelling for Gap and Marc Jacobs himself even when he’s halfway to being 60. I’m actually a fan of his work, but not necessarily in the avid fan for life nature that say Vice magazine is.

His collection I Know Where The Summer Goes caused a stir a few years back, with many of his former media supporters beginning to take a more critical eye, accusing McGinley of taunting his viewers with an idealised endless summer of naked endeavours and carelessly fun days that doesn’t actually exist. Journalists became somewhat immune to his work, which is often an amalgamation of Andy Warhol, The Wicker Man, William Beckford and Tony Hawks. (McGinley's Puma advert features almost identical scenes to the orchards in the opening moments of the original Wicker Man). It seems, like with Dolce & Gabbana adverts, the women are often arbitrary, a sort of lifeless padding around the real content of nude guys.

Like many 21yr olds, however, I know that this endless outdoor party lifestyle does exist. However, it’s more easily maintained by those whose parents are rich, or whose career goals are damp. McGinley’s work is unquestionably beautiful, and like Damien Hirst, seems quite satisfied in being just good.

Perhaps he is the rural counterpart to John Galliano or Bret Easton Ellis, but still lacking some of the charisma and zest. Often McGinley’s witty anecdotes and nightlife exposés of his gay encounters are required to truly unlock the magic of his work, consequently flawing the strength of some images to stand on their own. His photographs of fans at a Morrissey concert are wonderful, offering an alternative to the quintessential envy-inciting McGinley shots of washed-out skinny models trampolining naked, and documenting instead the impassioned mass following behind one of the world’s most brilliant living poets.

The most exciting question is, where will Big Mac turn his photographic eye next? Will he pursue his line in music video directing, building upon his success with Sigur Rós? Let’s hope he doesn’t fall down the all-too-predictable gay socialite route, perhaps one of Warhol’s vices, more boys, more nudity, more alcohol… BANG

Words: Jack Cullen

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