Ryan McGinley: Vertical Color of Sound

A First Solo Show in China for the American Photographer Of Carefree Youth

The wilderness of America—its unruly flower meadows, great lakes and black caves— are bathed in a wash of surreal color in the euphoric images of New York photographer Ryan McGinley’s latest exhibition, Vertical Color of Sound, with naked models swirling in the midst of a Bacchanalian frenzy. “I like to photograph other artists. The people in my photos are always painters, dancers, poets, sculptors, and musicians,” says McGinley, whose new series is exhibited at Galerie Perrotin’s Chinese outpost, on the 17th floor of a Hong Kong skyscraper. “I only shoot at dawn and dusk to get soft light on the body and those pinks and purples in the sky.” Captured on McGinley’s annual three-month-long road trip, zigzagging through 30 states of majestic landscape, the images are set up with studio lights hiked into the outdoors. “My dream location is White Sands, New Mexico,” says McGinley, whose show coincides with Art Basel’s arrival in one of the world’s most densely populated cities. “When I’m barefoot on that white sand and I’ve got a interesting person to photograph, it feels like the most epic dream.”

How does everyone entertain themselves on the long trips?
Ryan McGinley:
People who have large personalities will often keep the rest of us entertained. Everyone gets to cook their favorite dish. We listen to lots of music. We also try to go to old drive-in movie theaters in small American towns and see double features.

Your works often depict the joy of youth and the wonder of nature; do you think these two worlds have become too disconnected in our digital world?
Yes, everyone is on their phones and doesn’t take the time to smell the roses. They are getting their dose of nature by looking at my photos on Instagram.

I’ve heard that everyone you shoot is tattooed afterwards, almost like a secret society?
It’s a tradition on my cross-country journeys that most models get a little stick-and-poke tattoo to commemorate the trip but it’s not mandatory. It’s a nice way to remember the experience.

Vertical Color of Sound at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong runs from May 13 to June 21.

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    Sunrise, Sunset: Courtney Barnett

    Wanderlust on the Streets of Los Angeles in Our Series with Yours Truly

    Before her first overseas show last October, the only time Courtney Barnett had been outside of her native Australia was “to New Zealand for one holiday, and then for a funeral,” admits the bashful, Melbourne-based musician, who gained instant attention from the indie cognoscenti with the gloriously witty and deadpan slacker rock of her self-released 2012 debut. “I kind of didn’t believe I was going on tour until the day I left. I was waiting for someone to go, ‘Ah, the show’s been cancelled, you can just stay at home.’” Barnett’s recent The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas only cemented the singer’s rising status, leading to her US television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Filmed singing “Ode to Odetta” in the north-eastern districts of Los Angeles, the latest episode of our series with filmmaking collective Yours Truly, Sunrise, Sunset, makes Barnett’s wonder at her new globetrotting lifestyle apparent. “Highland Park and Eagle Rock are some of the oldest neighborhoods in the city,” says co-director Will Abramson of the idyllic locations; “a little more scenic, more serene, more her speed, with kids playing in the street and setting up lemonade and pupusa stands.”

    The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas is available now on Marathon Artists

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    Ryan McGinley’s Beautiful Rebels

    The Celebrated Artist Reveals the Unexpected Magic of Shooting his Butterfly Film For Edun

    Six species of African butterflies flutter about the tattooed torso of Bradley Soileau and the candy floss-colored hair of Charlotte Free in artist Ryan McGinley’s dynamic video portraits for Edun’s Spring 2012 campaign. Set to the soulful gospel of “If I Had A Little Love” by the Majestic Arrows, McGinley’s playful scenes of butterflies decorating the fingers, shoulders and cheekbones of a luminous cast of young models are punctuated with key pieces from the collection, such as a hand-crocheted pair of shorts or a laser-cut blouse. “I was interested in how the body could reveal the butterfly,” explains McGinley, “how it could fly out of the models’ mouths, hands or pants in its unfurling glory.” With Creative Director Sharon Wauchob preparing to send her fourth collection for Edun down the New York runway, the fashion house is establishing itself as an important voice in contemporary design. Founded by Ali Hewson and Bono in 2005, the brand’s commitment to sustainable fashion through trade and community building initiatives in countries including Uganda and Kenya and is an inspiration for the fashion industry on the positive change it can make. Here McGinley speaks to NOWNESS about casting butterflies and other free spirits for Edun’s debut advertising campaign.

    Why did you pick butterflies for the Edun campaign?
    I’m endlessly fascinated by the grace and eloquence of the butterfly. Like them, we are all on a long journey where we encounter endless turns, shifts, and conditions that cause us to change. The butterfly makes us realize that our journey is our only guarantee.

    Were there some entertaining moments on set?
    My camera was captivated by the graceful chaos they created. What I enjoy most while making photographs is a surprise. Something that happens that I can't anticipate, it's like magic. Butterflies are unpredictable and that's what made the day fun.

    What is your casting process like?
    Casting is truly one of my passions. I spend a lot of time looking for people to work with. I have a full time casting director at my studio who finds me people who are beautiful in an interesting way. I'm constantly shooting nudes in my studio to find new subjects I can work with in different capacities.

    Where did the Beautiful Rebels theme come from?
    I suppose Beautiful Rebels is a nod to [Leonard] Cohen's wonderful novel Beautiful Losers. Rebelling has always been part of my DNA, photographically and in life. The people I cast in my photographs are a representation of my own spirit. Just like Cohen I'm trying to fuse sexuality with spirituality within in my work.

    To see an exclusive selection of images taken during the making of this campaign, visit the NOWNESS Facebook page

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