Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright featured early photographs by Ryan McGinley, whose pioneering, documentary-style approach captured the antics and daily activities of himself, his friends, and collaborators in lower Manhattan in the late 1990s.
Occupying the entire second level of MCA Denver, the exhibition focused on McGinley’s work from 1998 to 2003, from his earliest forays into photography to his rise to national prominence. The photographs present intimate moments of both exhilaration and introspection, often within a mundane setting, and demonstrate a sweeping range of emotions. McGinley’s works capture the essence of his lifestyle at the time: gritty, daring, and focused on moments of both pleasure and tedium, as well as illicit activities. Unstaged and unedited, McGinley’s use of light imbues all of the works with an intensity and profound emotional depth. They may depict a figure as brooding and contemplative or bursting with joyful exuberance. McGinley’s photos and Polaroids continually elevate these everyday moments and allow them to pulsate with life.
A rare instance of the artist re-examining his earliest major body of work, titled The Kids Are Alright, the exhibition at MCA Denver featured many never-before-printed images. Additionally, over 1500 of McGinley’s Polaroids, which had never before been exhibited, wrapped the museum’s second floor. For this series, he documented nearly every visitor to his home and studio over the course of four years.
Works by Dash Snow and Dan Colen, two of McGinley's closest collaborators during this early period, completed the exhibition.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a multi-author catalogue, co-published with Skira Rizzoli. It will include a critical essay by Nora Burnett Abrams, a conversation between the artist and Dan Colen, and contributions by Aaron Bondaroff, Leo Fitzpatrick, Marc Hundley, Teddy Liouliakis, Lizzy McChesney, George Pitts, Agathe Snow, and Jack Walls. The book will feature 1500+ of McGinley’s Polaroids as well as never-before-published photographs included in the exhibition.