Known for extravagantly staged, hyper-real images of celebrities from the worlds of film and fashion, David LaChapelle is a crossover editorial portraitist whose work could be compared to the spooky and colorful environments of Sandy Skoglund as well as to the photographic confections of French artist duo Pierre et Gilles. For this exhibition, LaChapelle surprised viewers by presenting extremely large chromogenic prints that are devoid of people but still possess the artist's familiar sense of flash.
Consisting of two new series, "Refineries" and "Gas Stations," the exhibition, titled "LAND SCAPE," addressed contemporary environmental issues while stylishly alluding to art history. Models of factories and gas stations were crafted from disposable items such as drinking straws, hair curlers, glittered boxes, and energy-drink cans, and were lit from within. The resulting images were as elaborately and handsomely jerry-rigged as the structures are. At the same time they appear to be on the brink of falling apart, like set pieces from a deceptive stage play.
The destructive aspects and by-products of our excessive consumption of gas and oil and our collective denial are at the heart of LaChapelle's idea. In Gas 76 (all works 2013), a model of a 1950s gas station, photographed in Maui's rainforest, evokes Ed Ruscha's now-quaint depictions of Los Angeles car culture. The model's ghostly blue glow was simultaneously appealing and off-putting—one was drawn to its electric incandescence but also wary of the implied radioactivity. Land Scape Green Fields depicts a gleaming Emerald City-type factory made of tin cans, aerosol spray containers, plastic measuring cups, and globes that call to mind disco balls. Smoke and flames erupt from its stacks into a blue-green sky that is as ominous as it is lovely.