David Benjamin Sherry

One of the most exciting young artists of his generation, David Benjamin Sherry transforms himself and his environment.

Arts+Culture Feature
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DAVID BENJAMIN SHERRY

(David Benjamin Sherry, June 2008, I Orgasmus, 2008)

27 year old photographer David Benjamin Sherry likes to fuck with nature. For his first solo exhibition in Berlin earlier in the year, ‘Sensate Transcendency’, Sherry took a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, photographing the panoramic landscapes which he later manipulated in his studio. The resulting images are arresting, as we see a desert cliff transformed into the face of a devil or a view of Death Valley transformed into “an orgasmic tie-dye vagina hole”.

Sherry was born the youngest of four kids, in the wilds of Woodstock to hippie parents. When his parents split, his mother took up with a lesbian artist who introduced young Sherry to art. A fantastic art teacher went on to inspire him to apply to the Rhode Island School of Design. It was there that he “fully realized art history. The level of intensity there was so amazing. I would not sleep and I would just make art, and be really creative.”

A summer internship assisting David LaChapelle, aged 19 helped consolidate his ambition. “It was awesome. But I was the worst assistant ever because I’m a space cadet.” You can see traces of LaChapelle’s influence in the heavily saturated, staged images Sherry makes, brimful of emotion and tension. He moved to New York thereafter and met up with the endlessly chronicled Downtown set of designer Benjamin Cho and fellow artists, Ryan McGinley, Dash Snow and Dan Colen. He muses, “I was a bit lost when I first moved to New York. Wanting to make art, I got entered into this family of friends. So warm and loving and very community based.”

He applied to the MFA programme at Yale and to his surprise, got accepted. Famed photographer, Philip Lorca-Dicorcia was a mentor for him there and “changed the way I thought about art photography. Photographing from your head and almost making like cinema.” Outed by Lorca-Dicorcia during a critique, the male gaze became a secondary subject in Sherry’s work as dreams or more accurately fantasy took a more prominent place.

While contemporaries like Dash Snow and Dan Colen relentlessly mine their excessive lifestyle for inspiration, Sherry delves deeper into the unconscious for his. Echoes of the surrealism of Cocteau, the eroticism of Genet and the occult perversions of Kenneth Anger pervade his work. His pictures are vast and intimate at the same time. Though his pictures may appear fantastical, it’s rooted with a gritty human touch. Sherry is a hardcore classicist. “I don’t do digital. Everything is analogue. I build the sets by hand. The type of art I’m into, the magic, fantasy based work was all created by hand.”

Sherry has been also been following in the footsteps of Andy Warhol, Jack Pierson and more recently, McGinley in negotiating that fine line between art and commerce. In the process he has been creating some of the most memorable fashion editorials in recent times in magazines such as Dazed, Another Man, NY Mag and V Man. Check the sun-bleached idyll of Kim Gordon in Rodarte for i-D or his sly, witty take on big budget advertising in the recently launched at Frieze, art biannual Tar.

For his much anticipated first solo show in New York next year, Sherry takes a leaf out of the work of Lucas Samaras (another inspiration) in using himself as the subject of his work. Prepare to get lost in darkness, love, death and further excursions into the unknown.
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