PARIS.- World-renowned for his highly colorful fashion photography and flamboyantly baroque portraits of celebrities, David LaChapelle surprises us here with a new approach that bears witness to his interest in the underside of the American dream and the history of art.
David LaChapelle is an icon hunter obsessed by the question of notoriety, and when vandals had attacked the Dublin Wax Museum he traveled there to make a record of the broken lookalikes, which led him to investigate many wax museums in the United States (California and Nevada).
The high point in this series is a new photographic fresco reinterpreting Leonardo da Vincis Last Supper. In LaChapelles interpretation, figureless floating heads and expressive, yet completely detached, hands shown inside cardboard boxes compositionally represent the original masterpiece in an accurate yet startling contemporary way. The fragments of the broken models offer an image of raw piety, strangely resonant of the martyrs of Christian iconography.
This is a recurrent subject for the artist who consciously or unconsciously mixes the sacred with the profane. This large panoramic image is nearly four metres wide, and owes as much to the tradition of the religious polyptych as to collage. Ten years after LaChapelles iconic Homeboy Last Supper, merging street art and religion, the artist continues to reflect on the resurgence of the spiritual in our material dominated society.
The biblical wax figures were spared disfiguring by the vandals. The wax figures in the Still Life series were not as fortunate. These photographs depict distorted wax figures of celebrities, from Leonardo DiCaprio to John F. Kennedy, Madonna, and Lady Diana. The hyper realistic style of the images confers a feeling of authenticity on these damaged imitations - these forgotten facsimiles - made all the more disturbing because many of these real life people (celebrities) had already been photographed by David LaChapelle.
The Still Life series reaches into the dark side of pop culture. Reflecting on the fragility of fame and power of the Hollywood Star System, the series examines the appeal for us of the stars' replicas, their wax figures. These human "still lifes" with broken faces, also relate to our fascination for the spectacle of the downfall of our once adulated heroes. With these frightening portraits of stars condemned to museum storage closets, David LaChapelle takes a new humane look at the faces of our archetypes.
One of the most widely published photographers of the last twenty years, since 2006 David LaChapelle has been focusing on the experimental artistic sides of his art. In recent years he has exhibited his works at many one-man shows around the world, including the Barbican Museum in London (2002), Palazzo Reale in Milan (2007), the Musée de La Monnaie in Paris (2009), Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso in Mexico City (2009), Kestner Gesellschaft in Germany (2009) and the Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art in Israel (2010), from which he received the honor of Artist of the Year in 2011.
Also recently, major retrospectives of his work have been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (2010), Museum of Contemporary Art in Puerto Rico (2011), Hangaram Museum in Korea (2012), Rudolfinum Gallery in Prague (2011/2012), and the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm (2012/2013). Recent acquisitions include Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012), National Portrait Gallery in London (2012), and National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC (2012).
The exhibition is on view at Galerie Daniel Templon through 27 July.