POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
Ryan McGinley, Algo B, 2010, gelatin silver print, 13.5 x 18 inches, edition of three
There’s probably a limited amount to be said on the subject of Ryan McGinley’s now closed show at Team Gallery, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere, but I’ll be talking about it tonight anyway with the good folks at Ocular Octopus for #photoartchat. This means I’ll be over-tweeting between the times of 9 and 10 p.m. tonight with @harlanerskine and Todd Walker @ocularoctopuson on Twitter. Those who wish to follow the conversation just need to click on the photoartchat tag on any of my tweets and the 140 character conversation thread will appear.
Truth be told, I cheated a little and had a little conversation on Facebook already about the show with Jane Harris, who posted her review of the show at Time Out. An excerpt as a point of reference,
The artist's current exhibition strips away all context of place, exploring the tradition of the black-and-white studio nude through a series of 74 silver-gelatin prints. Presented in grid formations, these moderately scaled (mostly 18 by 12 inches) portraits of handpicked models are the results of hundreds of test shots, each figure presented against the same gray background.
Marrying the flawless formalism of Robert Mapplethorpe with the contorted pathos of Egon Schiele, McGinley's nudes conjure a deliberately awkward beauty. That each portrait conveys the same type of person—young, skinny, attractive—while still holding its own allure is a testament not only to McGinley's technical prowess but also to his capacity to see in every subject's pose, no matter how fleeting, some measure of the eternal.
“Uh-uh,” I thought before penning the following on the site:
Paddy Johnson: That show was awful. There either had to be far more of those portraits, so the really shitty ones didn’t matter, or far fewer, so the few good ones would stand out. Seeing as how none of the stronger works hold a candle to Mapplethorpe, the former might have been the best tactic.
I just don’t see why McGinley insists on taking the staged portrait path. That’s never been his strength, and this show demonstrates that.
As for Harris’s review, I don’t agree with it. It offers one line about contorted pathos/ sadness to the work, but I would argue that quality is better described as emptiness. Most of those kids look like they’ll be dead in less than 5 years. There’s not much eternal about that.
Jane Harris: I can appreciate that point of view. Though if you feel so strongly about it you should elaborate on its failings; establishing things like what you think constitutes the stronger works, and in what way are you comparing them to mapplethorpe – formally, i assume, as i did? – and why,
Paddy Johnson:…Off the top of my head, there were a few too many shots that looked like a Natasha Merit, i-just-got-out-of-art-school look to them. In other words, shots that rely to heavily on what a crazy angle will do to contort a body. I know there was at least one blurry boob shot like this. Algo B is weak because it’s only the crazy pose of the figure that’s noteworthy, and really, it’s not. These are just two examples of MANY.
And it’s not just formalism Mapplethorpe has over McGinley, it’s focus. I never question why I’m looking at Mapplethorpe. His interests are clear, particularly as it pertains to sexuality. McGinley’s has the look of art produced by a talented artist merely going through the motions.
Consider this a starting point for tonight’s chat.