“After the Deluge” is the aptly named David LaChapelle exhibition currently on view at Palazzo delle Esposizioni. The “deluge” refers to one of LaChapelle’s major works, a massive photographic mural laced with pop culture references and filled with naked models struggling in a major flood. Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel was the inspiration behind this work; although the loud, over-the-top, surreal scene LaChapelle captures is a far cry from the Renaissance aesthetic. Placed at the show’s entrance, the “Deluge” introduces you to this world-famous photographer, and provides you with a visual reference that marks the end of one artistic period and the beginning of another.
The show consists of more than 100 works, which are spread throughout two floors, is divided into two main periods: pre-deluge and post-deluge. The difference between his early work (1995 to 2005) and his post-deluge phase (2006 onward) is striking and represents a major shift in LaChapelle’s focus and vision.
His early work is filled with religious themes (Jesus in male model form), abundant nudity, artistic icons and pop culture references that range from Louis Vuitton handbags to Jeff Koons sculpture- the list is endless. LaChapelle also uses major celebrities in his pieces; the Kardashian family portrait takes up an entire wall, and photographs of Courtney Love, Naomi Campbell and top models of the 90’s in post-apocalyptic landscapes, the Garden of Eden, ship wrecks and crazy fantastical settings decorate the space.
The post-deluge phase is a completely different experience, in the words of Gianni Mercurio, the curator: “LaChapelle resoundingly deletes flesh.” The works demand a certain attention to detail from the viewer; the composition, the elements, the choice of celebrity are all to be examined in order to draw out the meaning LaChapelle works meticulously to convey. With its absence of loud nudity and popular symbols, the second body of work calls for even closer observation. For the “Gas Stations,” and “Refineries” series LaChapelle crafted intricate detailed scale models of imaginary cities using cardboard, hair curlers, tea canisters and more. LaChapelle also experiments with transforming the image and meaning of currency in “Negative Currencies” and interacts with natural elements in “The World Laughs in Flowers.”
During this transformative phase, LaChapelle also plays with video as a new medium. There is a projection space that shows backstage footage and two video works on display. The incredible video of ballet dancer Sergei Polunin entitled “Take me to Church” is one of the works and leaves you just as transfixed as the massive photographs.
The show is a unique and fun opportunity to witness the artistic growth of one of the most influential photographers of our time. The colorful surreal world LaChapelle has created is worth visiting, both before and after the deluge.
Till September 13
Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Via Nazionale, 194
Fri and Sat 10 am-10:30 pm (July 13- August 30 4pm- Midnight)
Entry Fee €8-10