David LaChapelle’s Toxic Landscapes

Once named the “Fellini of photography,” David LaChapelle has left his popular commercial work behind to return to his original fine art photography. In a new series called Land Scape, LaChapelle created handcrafted scale models of gas stations and refineries and photographed them with hundreds of LED lights. The work is an eerie look at the unsustainable landscape of today’s global, industrial oil production and distribution system.

In the exhibition catalog, Shana Dambrot writes: “The gas stations and refineries that populate iconic locations are staged as architectural avatars of a planet coping with the stresses of peak-oil — even as the buildings’ dazzling spectacle and retro-future aesthetic distracts from the dangers of their function.” To build these incredible models, LaChapelle used cardboard and recycled materials, like “tea canisters, hair curlers, and other by-products of our petroleum-based, disposability-obsessed culture.”

In the Refineries set (see images above and below), LaChapelle turns a made-up facility for processing gasoline into a luscious if toxic display. “While decoding the construction materials and contemplating the surroundings provides delight, what the artist would like us to remember are the decidedly un-magical consequences of what occurs in the refineries.” We are, Dambrot says, both captivated and repelled with these scenes, which were actually shot out in California’s desert.

The Gas Station series was photographed in the rainforests of Maui, where LaChapelle lives. In these, “the rain forest envelops the fueling stations, acting as an organic force that is both generative and destructive; it represents the source of fossil fuels, but it also has the power to re-engulf these man-made creations.” These gas stations are otherworldly but also all too common.

See full size images.
These works are on display at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City until March 1.

Image credits: David LaChapelle

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