Pretty Free

March 21 - July 18, 2020

Marlborough is pleased to present Pretty Free, a solo exhibition by the American artist Ryan McGinley. The show comprises photographs from several years, but with a particular emphasis on works from 2020. Centered on an ongoing exploration of the nude as a potent genre that spans centuries of art history, McGinley situates his subjects in a dynamic variety of contexts—from the studio to the great outdoors. Printed both in black and white and color on a wide-range of supports including satin, vinyl decals and traditional C-prints, the photographs range in scale from outsized commercial banners to intimately framed works creating a holistic investigation of the human body in space.

The vitality and vulnerability of the figure in nature’s grandeur is central to McGinley’s practice, and in particular, a kind of ecstatic expression of liberation that is reflected in the exhibition title. Naked figures of every body-type are seen frolicking within dramatic settings such as caves and cliffsides and scaling massive trees both raw and radiating with fall foliage. Groups of nudes commune in the blaze of bonfires and scatter amid the chaotic spray of erupting fireworks, introducing an aspect of danger and a bacchanalian spirit that contributes to vigorous compositions and drives the suggestion of a larger narrative.

In contrast, the entire ceiling of the gallery is covered with hundreds of portraits from the artist’s ongoing Yearbook series (2009-2019) which are created exclusively in the studio. This single artwork features an ever-evolving cast of intriguing young creatives, the series focuses on the dynamic relationship between artist and model. Printed on vinyl, the photos are adhered directly, side by side, in an allover composition that constitutes a powerful immersive installation.

In Gallery 3, a special selection of works from the artist’s recent series Mirror Mirror is on view. For this conceptual project, McGinley gave cameras to a group of friends with the directive to photograph themselves in numerous mirrors within their own homes. This shift of execution effectively transforms the mediation of the work from the capture of the subject by the artist to an act of passive image-selection, and of increased agency of the sitter.

Ryan McGinley is a New York based artist. At the age of twenty-five, he became the youngest photographer to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Over the last decade, McGinley has traveled continuously throughout the United States to create work that incorporates nude figures active within the American landscape. Ryan frequently has solo gallery and museum exhibitions around the world. His work has appeared in the collections of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., among many others. Recent group appearances include the Fondazione Prada in Italy, the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Artspace in Sydney and Seoul’s Daelim Museum.

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