Tomio Koyama Gallery is pleased to present “MY NY”, a much-awaited solo exhibition of works by the photographer Ryan McGinley. This marks the artist’s first exhibition in Japan in two years.
Ryan McGinley receives high international acclaim for his work, and is recognized as one of the most distinguished photographers of his generation. Noticed for his talent with the self-published release of his book of photographs “The Kids Are All Right” in 2001, McGinley became the youngest artist ever at the age of 25 to receive the honor of presenting a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2003. Ever since, he has been a celebrated figure of the times both within the world of photography and within the world of art.
McGinley’s work vividly captures the moments in which the joys of freedom and youth overflow from his subjects with their certain sense of insecurity, as well as the emotional depth of languor and sensitivity. His unique perspective of the world that represents the essence of the times has continued to fascinate viewers throughout the world. As a photographer who constantly maintains a positive and fresh sensibility throughout his career of over 15 years, McGinley can indeed be regarded as figure whose name will be remembered in the context of 21st century photography.
McGinley has held exhibitions in Japan including his first ever solo exhibition in Japan at Tomio Koyama Gallery in 2012, followed by “Ryan McGinley: BODY LOUD!” at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in 2016. This exhibition that was McGinley’s first solo presentation at a museum in Japan had presented over 50 representative works selected by the artist himself, and had received significant acclaim from audiences. The exhibition at Tomio Koyama Gallery on this occasion marks the artist’s first exhibition in Japan in two years.
【About the Exhibition: “MY NY”】
“MY NY” presents approximately 10 works that had been featured in McGinley’s solo exhibition “The Kids Were All Right”, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver in 2017. These works were initially published in McGinley’s legendary book “The Kids Are All Right”, which consisted of photographs he had taken between 1998 and 2003 of his friends and artists in downtown New York. In addition, the exhibition showcases a series of Polaroid works first ever presented at the above mentioned museum exhibition, alongside the camera McGinley had used in the early days of his career, and his ZINE made at the time. The exhibition serves as a valuable opportunity to witness works that convey “the origins of his expression” for the very first time in Japan, and is in itself a testament that McGinley’s distinct perspective of the world had been established from the very onset of his practice.
【Featured Works, and Ryan McGinley’s Practice from 1998-2003】
McGinley enrolled at the Parsons School of Design in New York in 1997. After studying design, painting, and poetry, he began pursuing photography in 1998.
At the time McGinley had lived in downtown New York where he had experienced a mutual fascination with fellow artists such as Dash Snow, Dan Colen, Agatha Snow, and creators like Earsnot, gathering together every night and forming an almost family-like relationship. Presented in this exhibition are works from Ryan McGinley’s early days as a photographer, which captured the enthusiasm of the boldly dynamic, free-willed, and hedonistic lifestyle of such contemporaries. As McGinley himself states how he “felt the great urge to take photographs day after day, that it was almost like an obsession,” he had spent over six years of days using up to 20-40 rolls of film until the digital camera was introduced in 2003. At a time when there were no mobile phones equipped with cameras, and before the era of the Internet, it had been highly unusual to continue taking photographs to such extent outdoors.
Writer and critic Chris Kraus comments on McGinley’s early works as follows:
“It is clear that even McGinley’s earliest images are not as “documentary” in their nature as initially perceived (…) In place of reality, he explains that his ‘photographs are in truth closer to a record of (his) imaginary life.’ The images in “The Kids Are Alright” are like symbols. Although the subjects are depicted as living in their familiar bohemian environment, they clearly do not remain there, instead transcending through time.”
(Chris Kraus, “False Fiction, Myth, Happenstance,” Bijutsu Techo “Feature: Ryan McGinley,” February, 2012)
The United States at the time had been under the presidency of George W. Bush, and was a period of despair for many in the wake of the 2001 September 11 attacks. In spite of such times, McGinley’s work presents an air of beauty and conveys to us viewers how each moment of everyday and life itself is that which is full of cheerful curiosity and excitement. McGinley had featured these works in his self-published book The Kids Are All Right that was produced in a ZINE-like format at a limited edition of 100 copies, sending them to magazine companies, galleries, and the artists he respected, ultimately leading to the opportunity of holding his solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. McGinley had created a means for his personal expression through producing his own new form of media.
【The Adventurous Freedom of McGinley’s Works, and a Radical Sensitivity that Connects with the World】
After the great success of his 2003 solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, McGinley left New York to travel throughout the United States, during which he began engaging in a more contrived and directed means of photography. Such works include his “Road Trip” series taken while traveling across the US with his friends, the “Moonmilk” series photographed the spectacularly dream-like spaces of underground caves, and the “Fall & Winter” series in which he photographed his subjects in natural settings from the fall to winter season. Through these works McGinley had discovered new grounds for his artistic practice, placing his naked subjects in vast and breathtaking landscapes to roam and cavort freely as they please, thereby capturing a sublime and mystical view of the world. In his 2012 “Animal” series he had selected animals as his subject, challenging himself to create works that demonstrate an unprecedented sense of delight and humor.
Although McGinley’s works appear to change with the times, they always brim with an almost fantasy-like sense of adventurous freedom, as well as a sensitivity that serves to form connections to people and the world. McGinley himself states as follows:
“My ultimate role as a photographer is for someone to be able to look at my book, read my essays, look at my photographs, and want to do something creative. I hope that the world I create will speak to people.”
(Ryan McGinley, Long Interview for First Solo Exhibition in Japan: “Photographs that are Magical, Fantastic, and Timeless,” IMA Vol.1, Autumn 2012 issue)
The images presented in this exhibition capture the exciting exchanges and lifestyles McGinley experienced in New York and present themselves as seeming predictions of contemporary digital society where the boundaries of private and public are mixed, surprising viewers with the artist’s sharp sensitivity towards the times. McGinley’s “MY NY”, as its title suggests, is a reflection of his days in New York that serves as the very origin of his creative practice.
Reference: Bijutsu Techo “Feature: Ryan McGinley” February 2012 (featuring a long interview on McGinley’s first solo exhibition in Japan at Tomio Koyama Gallery, and a conversation between McGinley and Gus Van Sant)
: IMA Vol.1, Autumn, 2012 issue (featuring a long interview on McGinley’s first solo exhibition in Japan at Tomio Koyama Gallery, and images of the works presented in the exhibition)
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