Ari Marcopoulos - It Might Seem Familiar
26 February - 16 June 2010
This spring brings Amsterdam-born photographer and filmmaker, Ari
Marcopoulos to Foam. Marcopoulos (1957) set off for New York in
1979 and quickly played a significant role in documenting
alternative youth culture in America during the last three decades.
Foam is showing work from his entire career, ranging from photos of
the emerging hip-hop and downtown art scene in New York in the
1980s and the snowboard and skate culture in the 1990s, to frequent
depictions of his own family in Northern California over the last
Marcopoulos's work is characterized by a remarkable feeling of
intimacy. Whether it concerns celebrities from the world of music
or art, or his own family, he approaches his subjects in an
intuitive manner and he always knows how to get close to the heart.
His photos are direct, extremely personal and subtly structured.
Recurrent themes are art, music, graffiti and the vulnerability of
the human body. The exhibition shows a cross-section of his work
from the last 30 years, varying from grainy black-and-white copies,
monumental colour photos, videos, books and zines.
He became acquainted with photography at an early age, when he
received an SLR camera as a gift from his father. Upon arriving in
New York, self-taught Marcopoulos had the opportunity to learn the
profession from two great, but very different masters. He started
out as a darkroom printer for Andy Warhol, from whom he learned
that anything is worth photographing. Marcopoulos also worked as an
assistant to photographer Irving Penn, from whom he gained more
technical skill and learned that control and a simple approach
produce the best images.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Marcopoulos began to photograph
street culture in New York, which at the time was characterized by
an emerging graffiti and hip-hop scene. As can be seen throughout
his entire oeuvre, Marcopoulos has the ability to assimilate into
the group he's following, and so, seems to stay ahead of the
zeitgeist. His earlier work contains portraits of personalities
that later emerged as the leading players of their time, such as
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Mapplethorpe and rappers like Rakim,
LL Cool J or Run DMC.
In the 1990s, Marcopoulos became interested in the lives of
skateboarders. He befriended a group of young skaters who were
recruited for the film Kids by Larry Clark in 1995.
Marcopoulos followed them on a bicycle and documented them both as
a group and in their personal lives. An assignment for a snowboard
company introduced Marcopoulos to a new youth culture of
snowboarders. In documenting these groups, he combined images
of extreme physical exertion and concentration with intimate images
of their daily lives.
After his marriage, Marcopoulos moved to the West Coast, where he
became the father of two sons, Cairo and Ethan, who frequently
appear in his photos. The themes from his earlier years return in
photographs of his children growing up, such as skateboarding,
graffiti and music.
Marcopoulos has exhibited his work in Gavin Brown's Enterprise, NY
(2000), Deitch Project NY, The Photographer's Gallery, London
(2002), MOMA (2005), MU Eindhoven (2006), Gallery White Room, Tokyo
(2008), Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA (2009),
Marcopoulos has published several books, including
Transitions and Exits, New York powerHouse Books
(2001), Release Your Inner Ari, self-published (2006),
Free Fall, Paris Nuke (2007), The Chance is
Higher, New York Dashwood Books (2008), Within Arm's
Reach, JRP Ringier (2009).
Marcopoulos' work is being simultaneously exhibited at Foam and at
the Whitney Biennale in New York.