Good News for Modern Man

Under this title the Groninger Museum has organised an exhibition of works created by the American artist David LaChapelle.

I had never before heard about this artist, but when I saw the poster of the exhibition I was intrigued, so I decided to visit the museum during my recent visit to Groningen.

I had no idea why the exhibition was named Good News for Modern Man and did a Google search. Surprising result: in 1966 the American Bible Society published a “modern translation” of the New Testament under this title! Why did LaChapelle choose this title? Time to find out more about him.

David LaChapelle (born in 1963) was 17 year old when he moved to New York, came in contact with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and in the following decades acquired fame as a fashion and celebrity photographer. His style was easily recognisable, exuberant colors, references to classical art. Technically perfect, often decorating and transforming his (analogue) color negatives.Sometimes controversial too.

Around 2007 he got fed up with the empty glamour and glitter of the consumerist society, moved to the island of Maui and started to create “fine art” photography…:-). Art with a Utopian vision of a post-industrial era, where men will live in harmony with nature: Good News For Modern Man.

I found it a fascinating exhibition. Took many pictures, would have taken more if I had known more about him. I show them here in more or less chronological order.

Burning down the house (1996), a portrait of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen (left) and his “muse” Isabella Blow. The castle in the background is real!

From left to right Lil’ Kim (1999), Death by Hamburger (2001) and  Self Preservation (1995). Lil’ Kim has Louis Vuitton tattoos, the Hamburger photo is actually a fashion ad for the shoes the model is wearing! It seems that David Bowie was not too happy with his portrait.

My Own Marilyn (2002) and  Amanda as Liz (Red) (2007) LaChapelle started his career in Andy Warhol’s Factory and of course knows about Warhol’s iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.  These portraits are based on real photos , both with transgender Amanda Lepore as model.

Evidence of a Miraculous Event (left)   Intervention (right)  . From  the series Jesus Is My Homeboy (2003)

The Last Supper (2003). Of course inspired by Da Vinci, and also part of the Jesus is my Homeboy series.

Deluge (2007). This work, inspired by Michelangelo’s Deluge in the Sistine Chapel marks a change in LaChapelle’s work

Cathedral (2007). Same series as Deluge, also referring to the Flood

American Jesus: Hold me, carry me boldly (2009)

The Rape of Africa (2009). Inspired by Botticelli’s Venus and Mars. Venus is personified here by Naomi Campbell.

The Raft of Illusion, Raging Toward Truth II (2011). Inspired by Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa. It is a collage, a work in progress, not often shown by LaChapelle

From left to right:  Concerning the Soul, Early Fall and Late Summer. From the series Earth Laughs in Flowers (2011)

Nativity (2012) from the Paradise series

Icarus (2012) In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the inventor of a way to fly, using feathers and wax. In spite of his father’s warnings, Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and he fell down in the sea, where he drowned

Seismic Shift (2012), purchased by the Groninger Museum in 2018. It shows the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, ruined after an earthquake. Try to find the many works of art in this photo, by artists like Koons, Hirst, Warhol, and even LaChapelle himself…:-)

Self Portrait as House (2013) An intriguing version of a self portrait. The various rooms in the house depict aspects of the artist’s personality

Gas Stations (2012)   Gaia (2011)

Kardashian Christmas Card (2013). Apparently the (in)famous Kardashian family spends every year tons of money for a “personal” Christmas Card. In 2013 it was LaChapelle’s turn, for 250.000(?) dollar

Land Scape series (2013) From a distance this may look like real refineries, but they are not. They are built from waste material like cans and straws in the artist’s studio. Click here for a video how LaChapelle did it: Land Scape part 1 and part 2 Amazing.

Secret Passage (2014) From the Paradise series

In his most recent series New World, LaChapelle imagines a world where many religions come together in harmony. The following pictures belong to this recent series

The First Supper (2015) If there is a Last Supper, there should also be a First Supper.

From left to right    News of Joy (2016), Jesus and Buddah under a tree (2017) and A New World (2017) 

Behold (2017)   Poster image of the exhibition

The exhibition can be visited until 28 October 2018.