Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review of Lachappelle's 'American Jesus' by Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi,Form IV

On October 15th 2009 form IV visited three photographic exhibitions in Dublin.“Under a grey sky”; a collection by Simon Birch and a collection of work by Elinor Wiltshire. The third exhibition was by David Lachapelle. Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi writes ".......and finally we were divulged in the world of David Lachapelle and his “American Jesus”. The space in which the exhibition was held was not only spacious but had old, graffitied floors and a hollow feel to it. The first shot we were introduced to was one of the most controversial and talked about pieces of Lachapelle’s. “Pieta with Courtney Love” displayed Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain in the positioning of Mary and Jesus in “the pieta”. Reading on kids playing blocks, Heaven to hell” it was filled with contradicting statements. Every space was filled with the opportunity for something, whether it was beer bottles, pills or religious candles, it was clear the point of Cobain’s suicide was something that contradicted the religious station Cobain found himself. Placed on a hospital bed a serpent, representing the devil circles beneath really pronounces the point Lachapelle is trying to get across. The building blocks are not only surrounded by a child but church chairs, fish and a holy bible. Lachapelle clearly wants to make a point of religion in one’s life and the fact it is always there but is sometimes clouded by earthly or materialistic things. 

One of his most recent works is one of Michael Jackson standing over the devil in the form of an archangel and dominating the devil. With grey skies in the background, drug marks seen on Jackson’s body, he is seen to be defeating the devil through death and defeating the evils around him. “The would-be martyr and 72 virgins” depicts bratz dolls pinning down a woman like male  who is evidently larger than them. Reminding me of the story of Gulliver’s travels, it is also told that the 72 virgins are rewarded to you once you reach heaven in the Islamic faith. This was really a portrayal of modern day Islam and the positioning of it in materialistic terms; a fair placement. 

Staying on the religious theme, Lachapelle’s next piece, “The anointing of Jesus” showed a striper named Mary, tying Jesus' sandal on to him.

This was controversial and not only was an immediate assumption that “Mary”  is Mary Magdalene. The room was shabby and the lighting was dark and sinister. Fish, a sign of Jesus’ message flung across the floor, and not noticed. Another piece displayed Jesus offering fish and a loaf, the bread of life to modern day people. All refusing it, Jesus is highlighted in the middle to be left defenseless and well “burned”!
Finally, two of my favorite works, both of which were displayed near each other really made the exhibition for me. One, “Devulgesaw the fall of Caesars palace, a famous casino in Las Vegas, although the fall of Caesar, a well known ruler did happen. His emperor, this “palace” could represent the flood of Noah and the rise of all materialistic evils. People are all clinging to each other or to a lamp post, representing the light of God. One man, with a tattoo “Jesus” gives a helping hand to those below. With Gucci, Burger king and those who have clearly undertaken boob jobs all drowning, Lachapelle embarks on the way of our social system and the rankings of materialism over religion. This religion is sought out once the flood and “judgment” has happened.
The other one of my favorites is “Thy will be done”. This shows the pope, high on his throne, cover and sprinkled in blood. With a skull placed on a side table, Lachapelle is blatantly referring to the corruption seen in the church in the past and today. Gold encircles him as well as dead people all at the bottom, all of which he killed in order to get where he is. This was the highlight of my trip as not only did it show me that points and opinions can be made through the world of photography but also the fact that not all photography has to be classical and similar.
I thoroughly enjoyed this outing and enjoyed seeing the photographers take on the current climate of issues that our global society faces.
By Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi, Form IV

American Jesus an Exhibition by David LaChapelle,
Connaught House, Burlington Road, Dublin 4,  until November 28th 2009. Click here for more details.