Pretty Free is a new solo exhibition by the American photographer Ryan McGinley. The show at Marlborough in London comprises work from several years, but with a particular emphasis on works from 2020.
Everyone I’m photographing, I feel like I’m remaking a family, in a way. My brothers and sisters are my heroes – RM
Centred on an ongoing exploration of the nude as a potent genre that spans centuries of art history, McGinley situates his subjects in a dynamic variety of contexts—from the studio to the great outdoors. Printed both in black and white and colour on a wide-range of supports including satin, vinyl decals and traditional C-prints, the photographs range in scale from outsized commercial banners to intimately framed works creating a holistic investigation of the human body in space.
The vitality and vulnerability of the figure in nature’s grandeur are central to McGinley’s practice, and in particular, a kind of ecstatic expression of liberation that is reenacted in the exhibition title. Naked figures of every body-type are seen frolicking within dramatic settings such as caves and cliffsides and scaling massive trees, both raw and radiating with fall foliage. Groups of nudes commune in the blaze of bonfires and scatter amid the chaotic spray of erupting reworks, introducing an aspect of danger and a bacchanalian spirit that contributes to vigorous compositions and drives the suggestion of a larger narrative.
In contrast, the entire ceiling of the gallery is covered with hundreds of portraits from the artist’s ongoing Yearbook series (2009-2019) which are created exclusively in the studio. This single artwork features an ever-evolving cast of intriguing young creatives. The series focuses on the dynamic relationship between artist and model. Printed on vinyl, the photos are adhered directly, side by side, in an allover composition that constitutes a powerful immersive installation.
In Gallery 3, an exclusive selection of works from the artist’s recent series Mirror Mirror is on view. For this conceptual project, McGinley gave cameras to a group of friends with the directive to photograph themselves in numerous mirrors within their own homes. This shift of execution effectively transforms the mediation of the work from the capture of the subject by the artist to an act of passive image-selection, and of increased agency of the sitter.
Ryan McGinley is a New York based artist. At the age of twenty- ve, he became the youngest photographer to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Over the last decade, McGinley has travelled continuously throughout the United States to create work that incorporates nude figures active within the American landscape. Ryan frequently has solo gallery and museum exhibitions around the world. His work has appeared in the collections of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., among many others. Recent group appearances include the Fondazione Prada in Italy, the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Artspace in Sydney and Seoul’s Daelim Museum.
Ryan McGinley Pretty Free March 21— April 25 Marlborough London