Ari Marcopoulos, Left Coast, 2008, Photocopied photograph, 53×36 inches, . Courtesy of Courtesy of the artist and The Project, New York.
The Project, New York is pleased to present Ari Marcopoulos’ first solo exhibition at the gallery. Through a series of new photographs and a video shot with a web cam, Marcopoulos explores a disquieting physical landscape scarred by reckless exuberance. The title of the exhibition, Fear God, is taken from a drawing by the artist’s son who, in turn, copied the cover photograph of hip-hop artist Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III album.
In the video, Ride, a teenager lip-syncs to Tupac Shakur’s “When We Ride.” Exuding confidence and pride in knowing the lyrics of the song, he seemingly performs for an imaginary audience— like the millions of wannabe stars on YouTube. A second character jumps in and out of the screen, also singing and throwing gang signs at the protagonist, while Marcopoulos himself makes a brief onscreen appearance. Their tough effrontery wavers when—for a split second—the teenagers make eye-contact and the pseudo-star cracks a smile.
The lo-fi quality of the video is also seen in the photographs, which are photocopied and enlarged to look like posters. Selected from a vast and continuously expanding body of work, these images demonstrate how markings on the body—scars, bruises, and tattoos—often have broader significance as encoded signs of social affiliation and status within insular communities. Similarly, graffiti in the urban landscape functions as a distinctly expressive residue of life which adorns otherwise banal architectural environments in an attempt to articulate public dissent from the status quo. Fear God not only reveals Marcopoulos’ continued interest in documenting underground youth and street cultures, but also his perceptiveness in photographing them—originally seen in his early photographs of burgeoning hip hop and skateboarding scenes.
Marcopoulos was born in Amsterdam and moved to New York in 1979. He began photographing the emergence of resistance movements and iconic artists, such as Michael Heizer, Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Hammons, with the same ease as the striking portraits of his own family and surroundings. His most recent solo exhibition, Architectures, was held at the New Orleans Museum of Art earlier this year. His work has been exhibited at The Project (Los Angeles), PS1/MOMA (New York), The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco), Bern Kunsthalle (Bern), Porto Mercosul Biennial (Brazil), The 2002 Whitney Biennial (New York) and at The Photographers’ Gallery (London). His photography was also the subject of six monographs, including Out and About published by Alleged Press in 2005. His most recent book, The Chance is Higher, was published earlier this year.