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Heaven to Hell with LaChapelle

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20th Sep 2008

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LaChapelle Trilogy: "Heaven to Hell"
As the artoscenti flock to Florida for the latest installation of Art Basel Miami Beach, we've been checking out the third and last installation in David LaChapelle's trilogy of pop culture protestations: Heaven to Hell.

Taschen released Heaven to Hell in November with the aim of completing the publication of collections of iconic images produced by the (you choose: artist/agency/provacateur). LaChapelle often photographs subjects who are symbolic in pop culture, and he is famous for finding ways to express the globalization of kitsch, MSMs obsession with celebrity, and the juxtoposition of rank and rude as a societal statement.

The evolution of LaChapelle is such that work which would have early on been considered "art" has evolved into a form of parody of itself, beyond its time before it is even born. He is so instantly recognizable and so copied that LaChapelle's view has become the glossy standard of the plastic-fantastic, and that has become the symbol of the every day. How delicious that he would reach a culmination in his recent work for Burger King, a symbol of the very culture his early work sought to skewer.

The book is a must-have in the way that certain things just are. Heaven to Hell is big and colorful and slightly stomach churning, and you need him to help throw things a little bit off kilter. His are the pretty pictures open on the coffee table that your guests enjoy -- a few moments of cotton-mind-candy while they wait to be seated for dinner, slightly dizzy and engorged.

LaChapelle's work has veered more into the commercial lately as his agency and commercial production business exploded. The editorial work remains outstanding, with projects for I-D, Interview, Rolling Stone, Vogue Hommes, Vogue, Vanity Fair and a host of other titles. But the commercial work is perhaps a statement: this is where the action is now, but the soul is gone.

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Last Supper according to LaChapelle in Heaven to Hell
Can a commercial project be art? It seems to be what every brand wants, but the very fact that it is work for a brand used to negate value as art. Having set the pace for global pop culture from Beijing to Barcelona, LaChapelle needs to go somewhere new, while closing a chapter that defined an era with the publication of the final book in the trilogy.

The next LaChapelle will be new... and his good recent work appears to be happening in new sectors: increasing work in video and Red Piano, an outrageous live production with Elton John. It would just be nice if we saw a bit more art and a bit less less predictability... maybe his secret website?