WITH DRUMS BEATING AND TRUMPETS SOUNDING
David LaChapelle is back
David LaChapelle is back
© David LaChapelle
The US-American photographer David LaChapelle returns with two new picture books: “Lost + Found” and “Good News”, both published by Taschen. LaChapelle thrills and disturbs at the same time, which makes his surreal, kitsch and often hypersexualised works so fascinating. His subject matter oscillates between popcorn and porn as well as an extreme artificiality that can be hard to stomach and may have exhausted the master himself who disappeared for a while.
Pop culture is the basis of his work, enriched by spiritual elements, as in the impressive biblical images from his series “Jesus is my homeboy”, where the American photographer referenced great works of art history – among them Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” or Michelangelo’s “Pietà”. The latter is not only the most famous dying scene of art history but also LaChapelle’s iconographic image: In his version, Maria’s part went to Courtney Love who holds Jesus in her arms, represented by grunge idol Kurt Cobain. The reference to pop culture couldn’t be stronger.
Now LaChapelle, born on March 11 1963 in Connecticut, is back and some of his images radiate the spirit that he – unsurprisingly – found at a nudist camp on Hawaii, where he went in 2006 to reset himself to zero. But also older works that hadn’t been published in a book before are included: Among them the effigies of pop-culture icons like Courtney Love, Tupac, Michael Jackson, Lana del Rey, Pamela Anderson, or Elizabeth Taylor. LaChapelle influenced a whole era of photography with his unique approach, now it has to be seen if his new picture books can achieve the same. However, a summary of the state of the world in the last ten years is something it can certainly deliver.
LaChapelle is not only a master of interpreting famous works of art history anew but he also plays with images of femininity and beauty, particularly in the first part of his new books. “Lost + Found” offers additional key moments reflecting the problems of the times we live in. It references natural catastrophes, pathological obsession with beauty, decadence, war, and poverty. In contrast, with “Good News” the artist’s subject matter moves away from our earthly, material world, and into the biblical paradise. Unafraid of blasphemy, a new light is shed on time-honoured biblical stories, in a LaChapelle way, of course: The loud advert look seems to reduce the well-known stories to absurdity. Now the last chapters of the five-volume LaChapelle anthology are published, after “LaChapelle Land” published 18 years ago, followed by “Continued with Hotel LaChapelle” (1999), and “Heaven to Hell” (2006).
It comes as no surprise that it was the legendary Andy Warhol himself who in the late 1980’s discovered the then 17-year-old and opened the door to the art world for him. His firsts works were published in Warhol’s cult magazine “Interview”, and from there it was only a small step to magazines like “Vogue”, “New York Times”, “GQ”, and “Vanity Fair”. And of course LaChapelle was also friends with big artists of the time like Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat, who were all hanging out at Warhol’s Factory. There is hardly a star who hasn’t been photographed by LaChapelle, from Pamela Anderson to David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Hillary Clinton, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey and the inevitable Kardashians. One thing is for certain: He will never lack for subjects as there will always be celebrities!