In 2000, Ryan McGinley, then a student, staged his first exhibition of photographs in an abandoned SoHo gallery. To coincide with the show, the artist created several handmade books featuring a sampling of his work entitled The Kids Are Alright. A copy eventually found its way into the hands of Sylvia Wolf, then a curator of photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2003, Wolf mounted an exhibition of his work at the venerable institution, the youngest artist to ever have a solo show at the museum.
What Wolf recognized--and what other critics, curators, and collectors would quickly discover--was an artist who understood and chronicled his own generation (habitu es of New York City's downtown) as no artist had before him. McGinley had managed to capture the hedonistic adventures of youth culture--kids hanging out and enjoying life--but without the dark underbelly of earlier artists who mined similar themes. As the work evolved, he moved away from the more documentary aspect of the early photographs and began to create scenarios where he could explore different ideas (aesthetic and otherwise). This eventually led to the now legendary summer-long road trips, capturing groups of twenty-somethings amongst a variety of American landscapes. In his most recent body of work, McGinley continues to explore--in black and white as well as in color--the body but in the still, pared down atmosphere of his studio.
In this first major monograph chronicling the entirety of the artist's career, McGinley's work is considered by three extraordinary figures: Chris Kraus, novelist and critic; John Kelsey, writer, artist and activist; and Gus Van Sant, the auteur filmmaker. Each attends--through the lens of their own rich insights--to various aspects of the artist's work and creative process, offering in-depth and unique perspectives on McGinley's work and import.
Chris Kraus is the author of four novels, most recently Summer of Hate (2012) and two books of art criticism. She writes frequently about visual and literary culture for Art in America, Artforum, May Revue, Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications. The recipient of a Warhol Foundation Arts Writing grant, she has published essays and monographs on contemporary artists including Jorge Pardo, Moyra Davey, Elke Krystufek, Tiny Creatures, The Bernadette Corporation, among many others. With Richard Birkett and Marco Vera, she organized the Artists Space exhibition "Radical Localism-Media and Art from the Pueblo Nuevo Gallery Mexicali Rose" in 2012. She teaches writing at European Graduate School. John Kelsey is a writer, artist, and activist based in New York City. He is a member of the collective Bernadette Corporation and co-founder of the gallery Reena Spaulings Fine Art. His texts on contemporary art have appeared frequently in Artforum, where he is a contributing editor. He is the author of Rich Texts: Selected Writing for Art (Sternberg Press, 2010). Gus Van Sant is a filmmaker, writer, artist and musician. His films include Drugstore Cowboy, Gerry, and My Own Private Idaho. He was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director--in 1998 for Good Will Hunting and in 2009 for Milk. His films Paranoid Park (2007) and Last Days (2005) were both nominated for the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or. In 2003 Elephant garnered that prestigious honor and Van Sant received the award for Best Director.