Ryan McGinley, YEARBOOK @Team

JTF (just the facts): A total of 753 black and white and color photographs, unframed and affixed directly to the wall in overlapping layers, covering the walls and ceiling of the main gallery space and a smaller back room. All of the works are printed on vinyl, and were made between 2009 and 2014. The individual images are poster sized, and the entire installation is available as a single work, including physical and digital prints of every image on display. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Ryan McGinley’s new show turns up the volume on his signature young and beautiful world, expanding it from the intimate and individual and turning it into an all-over explosion of bodies and color. It’s an exhibit (or maybe an advertisement) for the Instagram age, a never ending, universal timeline of the joyful, confident, irreverent lives of a generation.

If we force ourselves to slow down and examine these nudes with more attention to their specifics (instead of being washed under by the waves of the enveloping installation), what we can conclude is that the images on view are variants of the same work McGinley has been doing for the past few years. Take the black and white nudes from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (2010, reviewed here), give them the candy colored backgrounds of Animals (2012, reviewed here) and loosen the edit to choose the more exuberant and lively images rather than the most subdued and introspective, and we have a succinct description of the body of work that is YEARBOOK. Given the synchronicity of this project with the others, it’s altogether possible (and likely) that many of the nudes on display here were made concurrently with images made for the other projects/series; it’s just that this edit is slightly different in tone.

That shift in mood and presentation is perhaps the most important thing going on here. It mirrors the mainstreaming of sharing, the brightly colorful, boisterous parade of sexy, naked twenty somethings staring down at us from every inch of the gallery walls, contagiously happy and in fact entirely accustomed to showing themselves off. And by hanging these pictures wallpaper-style, McGinley is asking us not to focus on personal idiosyncrasies and differences but to see the individuals as pieces of a much larger whole, a collective YEARBOOK that documents a broader reality. He’s taken something that is usually personal (a studio nude) and turned it into a public performance, a grand spectacle like a pageant. And not unimportantly, his cozily crowded enclosure is the perfect place for a selfie, encouraging everyone to add themselves to the party.

Whether you find this show playful, fun, and right on trend or as vapid and shallow as an overmanaged Facebook page will perhaps depend on your willingness to fully embrace this new sharing culture. If the youthful mobs at his openings are any indication, he’s continuing to tap into a rich vein of energy. That McGinley’s chosen subjects are nearly universally lively, cool, healthy, and tattooed ultimately turns YEARBOOK into a kind of glowing downtown period piece, one that we can return to in twenty or thirty years and reminisce about what it felt like to be young and aspirational in the 2010s.

Collector’s POV: The entire YEARBOOK installation is available for $600000. McGinley’s photographs are generally available in the secondary markets, with recent prices ranging between roughly $5000 and $35000.

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2024 by Poursuite Editions (here). Softcover, 21 x 29 cm, 144 pages, with 107 black-and-white and color reproductions. Includes an essay by Clément Ghys ... Read on.

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