Comments/Context: Ryan McGinley's rock concert photographs aren't interested in the big productions or the wild performers. Instead of pointing his camera at the action on stage or taking wide shots of the seemingly endless sea of music fans, he gets right down in the throng, singling out individual up-close faces and capturing the variety in their fresh expressions. Blown up to larger than life size and arranged in neat grids, his kids shout and swagger with fierce energy.
With sweaty shaking hair, countless tattoos and piercings, and plenty of skin, McGinley's pictures document the wide range of reactions of these fans: ecstasy, shock, wild screams, blissful fatigue, amazement, disbelief, stoned incomprehension, unadulterated joy, stupefied wonder, and maybe even momentary fear. Bathed in a rainbow of lights coming from the stage, the faces are tinted in hues from acidic yellow and throbbing red to pale blue and pastel green. When seen as grids up on the wall, they become bright kaleidoscopes of earnest, juiced-up emotion. While McGinley's subjects will likely always be knocked for being too universally pretty, these works are certainly credible as a taxonomy of unguarded expressions; they feel real and authentic, supported by the unfailing optimism of youth. There are few jaded fans here, no snarky cynics, no cold water throwers. These kids are reveling in the moment, being exposed to events that are, in one way or another, blowing their minds; boundaries are being stretched and indelible memories are being made.
Purely photographically, these grids are in many ways unremarkable; it's not even clear from the press release that McGinley made all the pictures himself. What is of more interest though is the cropping, editing, and packaging of these images that transforms the concert snaps into the refined and potent elixir of youth. In these works, McGinley has tapped into the genuine rush of excitement that comes from the collective experience of live music, and reminded us what it was like to be young and crazy and free, screaming at the top of our lungs.
Collector's POV: The three grids in this show are priced at $80000, $85000, and $95000 each, and two of the three were already sold when I visited the show. McGinley's single image photographs have become more available in the secondary markets in the past few years, with prices ranging between $2000 and $33000.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Artist site (here)
Through June 2nd
47 Wooster Street
New York, NY 10013