b. 1977, USA

Ryan McGinley Biography

Bearing witness to American youth and subcultures since the 1990s, American artist Ryan McGinley is known for his evocative portrait photography. In 2003 he became the youngest artist to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

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Early Years

McGinley was born in Ramsey, New Jersey. As a teenager, he gravitated toward indie, club, and skate scenes and preferred to associate with people on the 'fringes' of society. In 1997, he moved to New York to study at Parsons School of Design, where he studied graphic design, painting, and poetry, before graduating in 2000.

Ryan McGinley Artworks

The Kids Are Alright

While a student in New York, Ryan McGinley took Polaroid photographs of his friends, lovers, and fellow members of the nightlife scene. Following in the tradition of artists like Andy Warhol and Nan Goldin, and the poet Allen Ginsberg, McGinley's early works are raw, intimate documents of youthful exuberance, hedonism, and sexuality.

McGinley covered the walls of his East Village apartment with the Polaroids and, in 1999, compiled them into a self-published book titled The Kids Are Alright. Curator Sylvia Wolf saw the book and arranged an exhibition of the images at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2003, making McGinley the youngest artist to have a solo show at the institution.

McGinley's subsequent rise to fame was quick. Garnering attention from the Whitney exhibition, McGinley was invited to present a solo show at MoMA P.S.1 in New York the following year. In 2007, just before turning 30, he was awarded Young Photographer of the Year by the International Center of Photography.

Technique and Style

While McGinley shot most of his early works on film, he now primarily works with digital cameras. He is not particular about his technique, however, saying he usually sets his camera to its automatic settings, making adjustments to the images later. His images are characterised by their bright, saturated colours and enigmatic subjects, who are often pictured nude.

Queer Subjects

Queerness has long been an important theme in McGinley's work and has played into his subject matter and choice of models since the 1990s. The 1999 photograph Ryan and Marc (Red Kiss), for example, shows the artist and his first boyfriend locked in a kiss. Deeply affected by the loss of his brother due to HIV/AIDS-related complications in 1995, McGinley often directly addresses the state of gay rights in America, as seen in series like 'Stonewall Protests' (2020).

Nature

Fascinated by the American landscape and people's relationship to it, McGinley has been taking road trips across the country to take photographs since 2004. Some of his most well-known images are nudes in landscapes. Nest (2017) shows a figure lying on the leaf-covered forest floor as buttery sunlight streams through the trees, while Elliot (The Nose) (2013) shows a lone nude standing at the edge of a cliff at golden hour. In Peepers (2015), two long-haired blondes frolic down an autumnal forest path. Sometimes, McGinley uses fireworks or smoke machines in these photos for extra effect.

Yearbook

In 2014, McGinley presented the monumental artwork Yearbook (2008—ongoing) at Team Gallery in New York. Marking a turn toward studio portraiture, the work comprises over 500 nude studio portraits of around 200 models, printed on vinyl and pasted to the walls and ceilings of the gallery. The show later travelled to institutions such as ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Denmark (2019) and La Termica, Spain (2016—2017).

Collaborations

McGinley has shot and collaborated with musicians such as Beyoncé, Sigur Rós, and Lady Gaga. He has also worked on campaigns for brands including Calvin Klein, Dior, and Levi's, and has directed several short films.

Exhibitions

Since the early 2000s, Ryan McGinley's work has been shown extensively in galleries and museums around the world. His work is part of major collections including The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Institute of Contemporary Art Miami; and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Website and Instagram

Ryan McGinley's website can be found here, and his Instagram can be found here.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2021

Ryan McGinley Featured Artworks

Wet Blaze by Ryan McGinley contemporary artwork photography
Ryan McGinley Wet Blaze, 2013 Photographie couleur, encadrement / C-print, frame
190 x 276 x 5.5 cm
Perrotin Contact Gallery
Roundup (Wide Sky) by Ryan McGinley contemporary artwork photography
Ryan McGinley Roundup (Wide Sky), 2014 C-print, frame,
160 x 236 cm
Perrotin Contact Gallery
Mouth Creek by Ryan McGinley contemporary artwork photography
Ryan McGinley Mouth Creek, 2014 C-print, frame,
160 x 236 cm
Perrotin Contact Gallery
Night Sky (Rocking Chair) by Ryan McGinley contemporary artwork photography
Ryan McGinley Night Sky (Rocking Chair), 2014 C-print, frame,
236 x 160 cm
Perrotin Contact Gallery
Night Sky (Meadow) by Ryan McGinley contemporary artwork photography
Ryan McGinley Night Sky (Meadow), 2014 C-print, frame,
118 x 80 cm
Perrotin Contact Gallery

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