David LaChapelle captures our modern obsessions: sex, luxury, consumption and appearance. Our shameful fascination, either disturbing or revolting, for soft porn scenes, heavily staged and colourful.
Advertising is not art. Sure. But the advertising media, street posters, videos, inserts in magazines, allow the artist to expose himself as in a free and universal gallery. For those who are still doubting, just take a look at the walls of your living room, or maybe remember your first apartment, or even your child’s room, your teenager den. There is surely a movie poster, a movie, a theater play, a gig, the everlasting Jim Morrison or the unavoidable Bob Marley, and photos of family, friends. And the Gex picture snatched from a motorcycle magazine? The Supercinq GT Turbo taped above the desk? A Black Lambo or a F40 Rosso Corsa? No ? Unless you are seriously masochistic, or downright devoid of personality to the point of hanging an Ikea frame sold with its preselected picture, you are probably displaying what you like, what makes you thrill.
Initially opposed to the idea of publishing his photos in magazines, LaChapelle goes through Studio 54 and the Warhol Factory. He discovers then the immense power of advertising as a creative support, the opportunity to expose himself to the greatest number. His work comes largely from this process, while exacerbating the codes of consumption in favor of a reflection on the obsessions of our world.
The cultural inspirations are plainly mixed, the composition of an Italian Renaissance look-alike painting as important as the apparent coarseness of a starlet barely breathing under tons of make-up. No outdated judgement about the image, no more debate about Major and minor arts, the references are associating and coexisting freely. Going the same way, we can think of Jean-Baptiste Mondino for the Pop angle and the portraits, and Helmut Newton for the glamour and eroticism.
With the motorcycles, he races through styles. Choppers, pastel shades and swinging 60s, to wild neon-lights 90s FMX, to the 2001 Ninja-Zebra ZX6-R and the 80s nude icon, Pam Anderson. The bike as an accessory, finally. The performance of the image.
He explores other tracks, sometimes, like this series: the petrol stations from a near future. We all have a place in our heart for these so familiar roadside services (especially because of the tank capacity), and I like the idea of a world without roads, dotted with alight relays hidden in a nature that’s finally winning again. The gap between the past illusion of abundance and the reality of a collapsing civilization. Refuel as if it were your last chance!