Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
“Earth Laughs in Flowers”: David LaChapelle from high to low and then back up higher

Late Summer, 2008-2011, Chromogenic Print, Courtesy of Fred Torres

For the first time on view in the US, “Earth Laughs in Flowers” at Fred Torres (who from now on represents David LaChapelle in New York) is an exhibit that distills LaChapelle’s relationship to high art and kitsch.

A series of 10 large-scale still-life photographs, LaChapelle’s work borrows from the baroque vocabulary of still life painting. It also explores the relationship between art historical conventions of visual representation and social meaning. For LaChapelle the latter is best expressed in a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Hamatreya, 1846). The flowers in Emerson’s poem comment on and ridicule human arrogance while LaChapelle’s flowers highlight the exaggerated and deliberate social behavior that has given rise to a series of kitsch images of every day life.

Wilting Gossip, Flaccid Passion, and Concerning the Soul are a few of the titles that imply the very same contradiction that has been explored in the works of Renaissance, Baroque, and Modern painters, namely that of the subject of Vanitas.  A type of symbolic work that refers to the emptiness that comes with materialism, abundance, and arrogance, the Vanitas of LaChapelle’s work reminds as of the transient nature of humankind and of the futility of life. Yet, the imagery of fruit, flowers, cake, candy, balloons, and plastic dolls anchors these ideas to a system of highly refined and well executed images that bridge our daily existence between high and low. Needless to say, the series is successful because of its technical qualities. This is the type of image that never gets tiring.

David LaChapelle: Earth Laughs in Flowers at Fred Torres, February 23- March 24, 2012.

© Thomaï Serdari