The Pleasurable World of Ryan McGinley

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This past weekend, Mission-based gallery Ratio 3 mounted Life Adjustment Center, a show of work by New York photographer Ryan McGinley. McGinley, who in 2003 gained the distinction of being the youngest-ever artist -- at the age 25 -- to receive a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, has continued his steady rise to the top of the fine art and commercial photography food chain. His shows consistently attract masses of young hipsters (all looking suspiciously like him), and his photographs often sell out before the openings even happen.


Critics love or loathe McGinley's work for the same reason: the pure pleasure of his pictures. They are full of youthful rebellion, spontaneous and intimate. Often occupied by lanky young bodies running or jumping through space, the only real darkness comes from their unabashed hedonism. In her 2007 essay for New York Magazine, writer Ariel Levy described McGinley's work as "Nan Goldin hit with a happy wand." This is a world that McGinley not only depicts, but seems also to occupy.


For this photo essay, I wanted to picture not only the hoopla surrounding McGinley's San Francisco opening (at which Christopher Owens, from the San Francisco-based band Girls performed), but the behind-the-scenes installation process. Taking the better part of two days, with the help of installers Seth Curcio and Chase Hoblitzell, gallery director Chris Perez and Ryan McGinley arranged and re-arranged the images, mulling every detail. The result, no matter your opinion on McGinley (and everyone has one) is remarkable.


Ryan McGinley

Seth Curcio, Ryan McGinley & Chris Perez

Seth Curcio

Ryan McGinley

Chase Hoblitzell

Seth, Ryan and Chris oversee the installation

Opening Night Party

McGinley introduces Christopher Owens of Girls

Christopher Owens performs

Life Adjustment Center is on view through December 11, 2010 at Ratio 3 in San Francisco. For more information visit All photos: Carmen Winant.