David LaChapelle Expo

Controversial fashion photographer continues to explore the art world with an exhibition at London's Robilant & Voena gallery

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With a career defined by 20 years of notable successes, David LaChapelle continues his foray into the art world, by bringing his latest exhibition to the Robilant & Voena gallery in London this month. Already having achieved huge accomplishments within the fashion industry, his idiosyncratic decadence as a photographer is now transferred on to large scale art pieces. The interest surrounding LaChapelle’s art work has surmounted to a state of media frenzy, which is only highlighted by the record breaking attendance numbers at his most recent exhibitions held in Mexico City, Paris and Guadalajara in 2009.

LaChapelle’s illustrious progress from fashion photographer to fine artist seems to be a natural evolution, having already dipped his artistic brush into other medias such as motion picture and show work. ‘The Rape of Africa’ seamlessly progresses from his previous occupation by producing pieces which demonstrate his highly recognisable method of high gloss appearance and use of ground - breaking computer technology to manipulate the images. His characteristic use of airbrushed perfection and celebrity flawlessness is now, however, juxtaposed against the social and political issues that LaChapelle viscerally seeks to project.

The exhibition’s titular piece exemplifies LaChapelle’s interest in the iconography of art history by recreating Sandro Botticelli’s 15th century painting Venus and Mars. ‘The Rape of Africa’ provides both a recording and critique of the unceremoniously degenerative effects that western consumerism has on African culture and society, whilst still retaining the grand effect of a Baroque painting. Themes clearly clash in an amalgamation of brash political referencing and erotically compromising perfection, with social disaster being paired with western grandeur and excess. The image indubitably displays this ironic collision to address the west’s penetrative thirst for the continent’s treasures, with LaChapelle’s tableaux portraying Botticelli’s Mars as a European god, carelessly relaxing whilst African child soldiers undertake his work and provide him with their country’s wealth. ‘The Rape of Africa’ is joined by other LaChapelle works which also recreate classic paintings in an extremely contemporary way. The collection accentuates LaChapelle’s devotion to high artifice and grand effect, as well as his attraction to celebrity and beauty, which results in a surreal yet vibrantly polychromic collection.

The exhibition runs from April 27 – May 25 at the Robilant & Voena gallery, London. Read Dazed Digital’s exclusive interview with David LaChapelle here

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