It seems too easy to claim McGinley’s new exhibition Animals is so different from his previous work – perhaps because it isn’t. Indeed there are no young ones taking drugs on these photos, but regardless of this, McGinley is still documenting. Working in a studio may be more controlled, but wild animals don’t take instructions too well and so the work becomes improvisational again. Whether it’s taking people to caves or wildlife to studios, McGinely sets the surroundings to then step back and capture his subjects interacting organically. Although Animals focuses – somewhat obviously – on those of other species, people aren’t mere objects in the background and as a whole, McGinley’s work is like a recording of the dialogue between animals and humans, or as their bodies react to each other.
The images of bruised bodies entwined with exotic animals on the bright and colourful backgrounds are intense, almost psychedelic; and the nude bodies give the images a certain reek of sexuality. It almost feels wrong, but whilst Animals is sensual and seductive, it is also sweet and warm, and at times almost comical. Perhaps taken out of context, it is still organic, and in a way, this is the key as to why the exhibition is brilliant. The obviously strange context allows – or perhaps it forces – the subjects to become aware of their most primal feelings and thus act the most natural, and so the whole body of work becomes its own best contrast with unnatural bringing out natural. Perhaps not traditional Ryan McGinley, he is definitely on point with Animals.