The artist-photographer discusses his affinity with the dynamism, drama and spirituality of 17th-century art
By Adrian Dannatt
Star artist-photographer David LaChapelle is a committed fan of the Baroque, whether the show opening this month at the V&A in London or the exhibition at the Bargello in Florence, “Living Marble: Bernini and the Birth of the Baroque Portrait Bust”, which he singled out in these pages as one of the best happening this year. Any connection between this “porno-chic” snapper notorious for ultra-gloss images of decadent celebrity-culture and Catholic 17th-century devotional imagery seems considerably less improbable after pondering their mutual devotion to high artifice and grand effect. For LaChapelle (surely an almost baroque name in itself despite his all-American origins in Fairfield, Connecticut) builds his vast, labyrinthine images with a scale, grandeur and drama whose excesses rival those of any Pietro da Cortona painted ceiling. Like baroque art, LaChapelle’s work always strives for direct emotional involvement, a visceral appeal aimed at the senses, to impress even the simplest visitor. Like baroque artists, he explores repeated and varied patterns, abundant details, thunderously bright polychromy, all in deliberate promotion of a populist conception of the function of art. Thus LaChapelle has coined an iconography that is direct, simple, obvious and dramatic, its broad and heroic tendencies suggesting not only the intensity and immediacy of the Baroque but most importantly its overall sense of awe.
More after the JUMP.