Ryan McGinley's Winter exhibition, Team Gallery, New York
See the American photographer Ryan McGinley's work from November 5th - December 20th at the Team Gallery, 83 Grand Street, New York
The opening of Ryan McGinley’s new show Winter at the Team gallery should have been one in which the audience viewed his icy works just minutes after feeling the icy winter winds winding themselves into their bones. This was however, not the case. New York this November has not yet required the Michelin man like suits and woolen stockings of Prairie children. The only ice we’ve seen so far has been clinking in cocktail glasses.
McGinley, a photographer no longer young, but perhaps still best known for his youthful 2003 show of his friends at the Whitney. A show that paid homage to the confusion of having no clear path to follow and exploring the hedonism that comes with rampant youth. The figures he photographed were not clear; the surroundings even less so. But the atmosphere was; these were prep school punks, flannel-shirted and skateboard-riding, but with expensive Lower East Side haircuts. These were not the dispossessed and dirty; the lost children shown by Dash Snow and Nan Goldin. McGinley’s dispossessed kids are drugged, puking and fighting not out of desperation, but out of a delirious sense of fun and a flamboyant distaste for the suburban homes they have recently left.
These are the images that one associates with McGinley, which is perhaps one of the few downsides of having a Whitney retrospective at 26? He is 38 now and neither he or his subjects are kids. Humans are hardly even the subjects of his new show. Creeping, violent tendrils of ice are. The humans in the shots are exposed as all the more gentle and fallible by the mighty walls of our lifeblood turned hard.
Ice is an interesting topic to focus a show on. A fairly obvious one if you consider the brutally cold New York winter last year and the popular zen for artisan ice cubes. But this is not the ice that McGinley is showing. He is portraying something closer akin to ice as not the destroyer, but the creator. His ice is not of the Titanic, but ice that provides a clean sheet; a background for hopes and dreams. His characters set against these neighborhoods of ice do not appear enfeebled and shrinking but instead in the very throes of creation, almost sexual. One woman grasping at stalactites still has her nails perfectly manicured in a very similar color to the finger-like tentacles of the ice.
Yet, McGinley’s ice should not be thought of in purely metaphorical terms, because ice just as fire has the ability to create and destroy. In the parts of the world where McGinley shows his work one needs not worry about how long eggs have been in the fridge or whether you can serve ice cream to excitable children. Ice is in our freezers as part of our daily lives, making them simpler, we need not go to the market every day.
But ice can do greater things in the modern world too; consider the surgeon’s use of ice. Surgeons can operate on a brain longer without the risk of brain damage or death if the brain is sufficiently cooled. McGinley shows us the juxtaposition of a frail but living woman in the ice, the ice seemingly comforting her as she bleeds. It is an image that is strong in its frailty; almost sexual is the need for ice. This is the ice that McGinley presents us in his show. Not a cruel element responsible only for old ladies slipping outside their apartment buildings but as an element that can nurture. It should be held close for some day soon, because we may need it for more than just a gin and ginger.
Written by Annabella Hochschild, our NYC contributor to Arteviste.com