David Lachapelle: Land Scape

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David LaChapelle ('Castle Rock', 2013)
'Castle Rock', 2013

© the artist, courtesy Robilant + Voena.

David LaChapelle ('Anaheim', 2013)
'Anaheim', 2013

© the artist, courtesy Robilant + Voena.

David LaChapelle ('Luna Park', 2013)
'Luna Park', 2013

© the artist, courtesy Robilant + Voena.

David LaChapelle ('Riverside', 2013)
'Riverside', 2013

© the artist, courtesy Robilant + Voena.

These aren’t oil refineries as we know them but fabricated tableaux by the kitsch-tastic David LaChapelle. If you look closer, these luminous beacons of industry are actually made out of beer cans, plastic straws and egg cartoons. Known for putting the shimmer and kaboom into commercial photography, the American artist has turned his attention to glitzing up the dirty business of energy.

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Curated London

This exhibition draws you in from the start. At first glance, these photos look like pictures of spruced-up real-life oil refineries and power stations. But on closer inspection, you realise that they are cleverly constructed models, made out of all sorts of recycled household objects – from the obvious tin cans and water bottles, through to cotton reels and exercise balls. In a couple there’s even a flame coming out of a chimney like a gas flare, or steam rising from a cooling tower.

The colours are hyper-real, and there’s more glitter than you’d normally expect to see on an industrial site, but these are stunning and witty photos. Indeed, the visual puns abound. Not only is there the link that many of the plastics used in the models would have been made using raw materials from such plants, but many of the cans are energy drinks. Geddit?

LaChapelle was assisted by Hollywood set designers, who constructed the models before he photographed them in various locations (the Californian desert, or looking out over Los Angeles). And it’s nice to see a low-tech approach to model-making. Three of the photos are much more obviously models, of petrol stations that look as if they are lost in the rainforest. In one, a tropical frog sits on the forecourt, playing havoc with the perspective and adding an even more surreal note.

Amongst all this, there probably is a serious message about energy and recycling. But it certainly doesn’t distract from the visual impact.

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