I've only seen Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point once, many years ago. But Ryan McGinley's latest solo show in Amsterdam turned me on in almost the exact same way as that film back then. Famously, the Italian director's film had a fascination for youth and its limitless, meaningless potential. Life is seen as a frontier stretching out to the unknown, a desert dotted by similarly spirited souls, a tabula rasa populated by spontaneous, joyous, dangerous connections. McGinley's images portray such youth, even though the desert is replaced by a more baroque nature, monumental yet warm and empathic. One where animals somehow coexist with skinny, naked humans often casually scarred by their claws in a sort of rough love game.
In the span of McGinley's work, Somewhere Place seems a bit more reflexive and still compared to his earlier series. The photographer's subjects were often surrounded by colorful lighting and caught while jumping against wind or rain, or even surrounded by exploding firecrackers (something that also reminds me of the iconic explosion at the end of Antonioni's movie, even though with an entirely different meaning). Now, when they look suspended, it might be because they are falling from a tree, like a dead leaf, rather than standing strong against the elements.
In McGinley's photos, nature is something of a dangerous beauty, and Somewhere is a place of contemplation where gazes drift lightly and get lost on surfaces that are either caressed by light or scratched to bleed. Or both. Mostly, though, McGinley aims to capture simple moments, later serving as immediate allegories of that stage in life when anything, anywhere can happen. It's no surprise the show is titled after what is possibly the simplest shot of them all: a couple looking up to a greyish-yellow sky. A desert, but above.
--Nicola Bozzi, writer living in Amsterdam
(Images: Ryan McGinley, Somewhere Place, 2011; Jake (Fall Foliage), 2011, Brandee (Kitten), 2011; Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Gabriel Rolt)