Comments/Context: Wild animals and nude bodies are an unlikely visual combination, and Ryan McGinley's unusual pairings of man and beast provide for some startling juxtapositions. Using exotic zoo animals and posing them with young men and women against candy-colored studio backgrounds, McGinley has made pictures that are alternately elegant and comic, but always bold and eye-catching. Bites, scrapes and even trickles of blood are evidence of the the untamed nature of this project, with feral chance clearly playing a role in the photographic outcomes.
The best of these photographs are the ones where the lyricism of the forms is dominant. Green and white parakeets fly through enveloping pastel blue, partially obscuring a model with her arms outstretched like wings. The long white feathers of an albino peacock cover a model like windswept wisps of clouds against the rose red backdrop. And the curve of a guineafowl fits perfectly into the hollow of a woman's side, its densely patterned plumage a stark contrast to her pale skin. In each, the body, the animal, and the background color come together gracefully.
Many of the rest of the images on view are more like jokes or one-liners, with varying degrees of harsh silliness. A bushy baby porcupine lies between a woman's legs, an albino skunk sniffs a bare bottom, a monkey's arms surround a man's torso, and countless animals nestle in crotches of men and women alike. There's even an homage to Avedon's Natassja Kinski and the Serpent, this time with an iguana doing the licking. But even in the funniest of these pairings, there is something frantic about the look in the eyes of some of these animals, a natural savageness that was held in check for just a moment. Put together with the vulnerability of the human nudes, every picture has an element of lively tension, just at the breaking point.
All in, the contrast of human and animal bodies and the inherent anxiety in the poses gives these pictures some odd, agitated freshness. I think the more ornamental matches will ultimately be more durable than the salty wisecracks and the sexy horsing around, so look out for the handful of images that have a more refined sense of unexpected opulence.
- 14x9: $5500
- 13x20: $7000
- 24x16: $8000
- 30x45: $14000
- 57x38: $21000
- 48x72: $25000
- 72x108: sold out
- Artist site (here)
- Features/Reviews: NY Times T magazine (here), Wall Street Journal (here), Huffington Post (here), Hint (here)