The youngest artist to ever have a solo exhibition at the Whitney (The Kids Are Alright in 2003, at age 25), Ryan McGinley is one of the shining stars of millennial art. A chronicler of edgy youth culture, McGinley started out by training his camera on his pals in New York’s downtown art scene. He then moved on to capture free-spirited, naked twentysomethings cavorting through wide-open landscapes, exploring underground caves and jumping off cliffs.
Since 2008, McGinley has been shooting studio portraits of attractive, often-tattooed and, yes, nude young men and women against seamless-paper backgrounds. For his current installation, Yearbook, the artist has printed these images on poster-size stickers to form a single, immersive artwork composed of nearly 700 color and black-and-white photos of almost 300 different models.
McGinley found his subjects at colleges and music festivals, and on the streets, and they make for a sexually and ethnically diverse lot. Except for a photo depicting a pair of female twins and another of two girls, the photos portray singular figures in all types of playful poses. Sometimes the same person appears in more than one picture.
Hairstyles, tattoos and piercings serve as generational signifiers, while facial expressions, ranging from pensive to gleeful, reveal individual personalities. Covering every inch of the gallery’s walls and ceilings, Yearbook envelops the viewer in a celebration of youth. Shooting hundreds of images over two-hour sessions with each model, McGinley has joyfully pieced his parts together to form a spellbinding whole.