David LaChapelle (Born in 1963, in Connecticut) is known for his over-the-top, unconventional portraits of famous people such Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss and Lady Gaga.
Since the 1990s he has been staging images celebrate himself rather than the stars in a colorful juxtaposition of patterns and objects. His immediately recognizable handwriting is a characteristic that is both challenging and inviting here. Perhaps also because LaChapelle has followed the premise of his first employer – none other than Andy Warhol: you can do whatever you want, so long as the people look good.
(2008–2011) These ten large-format photographs are LaChapelle’s most recent works and this exhibition is their first public showing. The title quotes from the poem Hamatreya, by the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), in which flowers are the earth’s laughter at the arrogant attitude of human beings, who believe they can own the earth even though they are transient and must return to it. LaChapelle pairs the literary treatment of vanity with the genre of the still life, which has always been an expression of life’s transience. Damaged objects, things that decay, like fruit and flowers, symbolize finiteness. Precious objects stand for superficial desires. In keeping with the Christian virtues we can understand still lifes as warnings, but also, in the sense of the Baroque, as the feast of life before it is over. LaChapelle allows a glimpse of both. The stages of life appear as seasons in Springtime, Late Summer, Early Fall and Deathless Winter. The blooming and withering of physical lust is portrayed with some irony in The Lovers with sex dolls, bananas and luxuriant red flowers.
Nothing bores him more than good taste in art and photography. LaChapelle confronts us with exuberant compositions that are not merely extravagant. We also ask ourselves whether the flowers were actually arranged in this way. In his previous work it was very important to LaChapelle that the depicted scenes actually happened. This time he leaves open how and where his motifs come about. The works are easily understood despite this, as in America, an obvious comment on current political events: toy planes, burning American flags and balloons saying “Good Luck” and “Get Well.” Here probably lies the reason for David LaChapelle’s use of well-known art-historical visual formulas – as he did in 2003 with a fashion campaign as a reinterpretation of scenes from the life of Jesus: Jesus Is My Homeboy. The easily decipherable appropriation corresponds to his understanding of pop art as one that speaks to as many people as possible and encourages them to look without scaring them off.