Despite my excitement arriving at Paul Kasmin Gallery for the opening of the famous photographer and artist David LaChapelle’s “Still Life” exhibition, I couldn’t help but feel a bit claustrophobic – it wasn’t as much of an art opening, as it was a social platter. It was almost impossible to discern the artworks from between the mob of camera men, photographers, full body leopard wearing viewers, and Amanda Lepore, one of the artist’s favorite models/muses, with her entourage no less. Making my way around the exhibition – or trying to at least – was proving yet again that openings in NYC are just excuses for people to be seen, rather than the art to be looked at.
Kill Your Idols
The works were not what I was expecting from LaChapelle’s usual subject matter. The artist who usually creates intense, visceral, cinematic and exuberant staged scenarios glorifying the lavish live of iconic celebrities, chose a completely different aesthetic paths this time. After a break in at the National Wax Museum in Dublin, Ireland, LaChapelle photographed the so called leftovers of the destroyed political and pop icon figures. Wax figures in general are terrifying; they are blatant attempts to duplicate real people, but always come out with wrong tweaks and defects. I honestly have not been able to look at one after House of Wax came out without suppressing a shudder. Looking at the large scale prints of zoomed in piles of broken celebrity busts was unnerving.
These are well shot photographs; there is good lighting, composition, theatrical qualities. The images are ghostly. These are portraits of universally recognizable faces, most of them still very much alive, but forever buried in these photos. There is the knowledge that we are looking at the decaying imagery of pop culture. Looking at Leonardo DiCaprio’s bust, still during his Titanic days, youthful and glowing in its waxy eternity, forever beheaded, makes you nostalgic and uneasy. Then there is Michael Jackson, in lieu of his death, the wax figure slightly damaged revealing a full eyeball. A plesant and topless Princess Diana, nude Cameron Diaz, frozen and revealing, or more the more masculine Sean Connery, and Ronald Reagan. One photo revealed a jumble of eyeballs and jaws, a disturbing nature morte of crushed faces and crushed icons.
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