March 17, 2008
Endless winter: Sonoma photographer Ari Marcopoulos follows snowboard "nomads"
Tonight's Art Lecture Continues Oxbow Series
Tonight, the Oxbow School's Visiting Artist lecturer is Los Angeles sculptor Alison Sarr, whose work often evokes themes of race and culture. She will speak and show slides from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Copia auditorium, 500 First Street, Napa.
Fresh from his latest gallery-opening in Milan, photographer Ari Marcopoulos touched down in Napa last week for the latest installment of the Oxbow School's Visiting Artist Lecture Series.
The third speaker in this year’s spring lecture series, Marcopoulos confessed to the audience assembled at Copia that he’d rather just put on some techno music and dance, “and invite everyone to join me.” He then launched into a 90-minute presentation that mingled music – Bjork and Dylan – with the arresting images that have become his trademark. Snowboarders, skateboarders, and kids’ skinned knees: Whether in color or black and white, Marcopoulos’s photographs and videos have a powerful, almost physical immediacy.
His Oxbow presentation began with the video “Eero,” a 40-second, repeated loop in which his camera moves smoothly around the stoic, badly battered face of a young pro snowboarder from Finland.
Pro snowboarders have long fascinated Marcopoulos, who calls them “metal-tube nomads” after the airplanes that jet them around the globe, “switching seasons over the Equator so they’re living in a permanent winter.” His intimate portraits of them in their hotel rooms offer a glimpse into a world most viewers will never encounter. Here he strives for the kind of intimacy he believes typified the work of 17th century master portrait painters like Velazquez
The Dutch-born Marcopoulos encountered his modern-day Velázquez in 1980s New York, where he landed a job printing photographs for Andy Warhol. Two years later, he went to work for Irving Penn in the high-fashion world. While working for Penn, Marcopoulos was busy aiming his own camera at faces all over town. From Times Square denizens to hip-hoppers like the Beastie Boys, he was making friends by photographing the scenes and people of New York.
“I worked and I partied. That’s basically what I did,” Marcopoulos told his Napa listeners. And he discovered that hip-hop music and culture had the same power to shock and inspire that he’d discovered in listening to Coltrane and Stravinsk “I wanted it all,” said Marcopoulos He soon left Penn to work for himself and began shooting such stars as LL Cool Jay, Jean-Michel Basquiat and A Tribe Called Quest. Inevitably, the omnivorous photographer was drawn into skateboard culture, capturing urban skaters all over New York. Snowboarding was next: Marcopoulos himself became an accomplished boarder, and made friends with some of the sport’s biggest names.
Now living in Sonoma, Marcopoulos continues to make photographs and experimental films, sometimes with the help of his skateboarding son. He shot his latest video, “Dressage,” in the family garage.
Marcopoulos wrapped up his program with images that stuned his Oxbow audience of students and art enthusiasts. Largely filmed from a helicopter as he followed his friend, the late pro boarder Craig Kelly, they captured a series of breathtaking “free rides” down untracked mountains. Kelly, who died with seven others in a Canadian avalanche five years ago, was arguably the sport’s most gifted athlete: “He was the person who made it look easy,” said Marcopoulos, now at work on a documentary about Kelly.
The Oxbow School Visiting Artist Lecture Series is free to the public. For information, call (707) 255-6000.
Link : To view all photos from the lecture.