The Irish Times September 18, 2009

It could be a metaphor for our times and a symbol of hope, or it might seem like blasphemous pornography. Some may wonder whether it's pop culture or high art, and many will go through David LaChapelle's exhibition, which opened in Dublin last night, picking out the famous faces appearing in scenes that seem to have sprung from Renaissance paintings by way of Vogue.

The centre piece is Deluge, a reworking of a section of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, but in LaChapelle's version it's a modern day cataclysm visited on the Gomorrah that is Las Vegas.

Some may choose to be offended by all the nakedness, and if there's a decadence to the aesthetic of some of these photographs it's one LaChapelle has seen first hand during 20 years as one of the world's most famous photographers. He also directed music videos.

"I wanted to document the obsessions of American culture, celebrity worship, plastic surgery, but the paradox was I was working for the magazine culture that was promoting those things."

His epiphany came in 2007. "The job I quit on was Madonna's; she was screaming at me, and I thought I'm not going to do this again. I'm tired of it all."

Returning to art, his first love, he also returned to his heroes: Renaissance artists. "I feel we're a bit in the Dark Ages now, where the human body is so objectified. The figure is seen as an item for sexual gratification, for money, for commodity. My challenge is to reclaim it, to look at it again as something of nature and beauty."

Organized by the Sebastian Guinness Gallery, the exhibition is in the un-let ground floor of an office block off Mespil Road.

LaChapelle received the invitation through his friendship with Daphne Guinness, but admits to having been "warned off" Ireland. "Business people said: 'why are you going to Ireland, there's no money there'. I understand there's been a major collapse financially, but you guys seem to be handling it."

by GEMMA TIPTON

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