If you want to be mesmerized by youth’s spell and meet everyday Peter Pans and Tinkerbells, let Ryan McGinley’s photos take you to his neck of the woods.
In Howl, poet Allen Ginsberg painted a picture of his generation. He voiced: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night…” But in a post-flapper, post-beatnik, post-hippie, and probably post-hipster era where subcultures have been reduced to the individual—it’s photographer Ryan McGinley’s turn to voice out his generation’s youthful exuberance and revolt.
In his second solo exhibition Somewhere Place in Netherlands, we see the recurrence of mad youth, wholly naked, holy-attractive, with everything to earn in their prime, and with nothing to burn but time.
There’s “The Boy with the Thorns in His Side” showing the back of a scratched torso against a bright green background. There’s “Amanda” carrying purple flowers, looking oblivious of her nipple slip. She then braves holding a hawk inside a studio—her pubes in view—nothing’s too awry. My favorite would have to be “Midnight Flight” where four nude young’uns indulge in a night in the woods, one of them jumps off in what looks like an abyss. But there’s seems to be no hesitation here—only a wild and wide-eyed worldview in need of a leap of faith.
Talented Mr. McGinley also started with a leap. Though he’s the type who might scoff at being called Sir or Mister even if he is the youngest artist to have a solo show at the Whitney, he told Seesaw magazine that his shoots are not overthought. In terms of casting, he mentions, “No, it was just who was available. Most of my friends were artists, musicians, actors, and so on, and nobody had jobs. So we would just go up there and make photographs.” He then became a published photographer in publications such as Index, Vice, and The New York Times, and has become highly lauded in the art circuit.
Coming a long way from his start in photography when he was 21 years old, Ryan tells Dazed Digital “It’s about working hard. You can’t come to a great picture without taking a lot of bad ones too. It’s working and waiting, and then you’re rewarded with a happy accident.”
If the Beatles said that happiness is a warm gun, for Ryan, happiness is indeed a trusty cam at hand.For further reading, visit the Ryan McGinley website.