Opening Night: Photographs 1984 – 2014 by Peter Arnell
Peter Arnell has been taking photographs for 30 years, and though his images have been featured in major publications and worldwide advertising campaigns, only now is he presenting himself as a fine artist. “I’ve always taken photographs, but I’ve taken photography more and more seriously over the last five years,” he recently told Milk Made. “There’s a momentum behind my work now, and I’m ready to share it.”
Photographs 1984-2014 by Peter Arnell, presented by Milk Gallery, showcases a slice of the photographer’s expansive collection, all in black and white. The exhibit, curated and designed by Arnell’s longtime friend and collaborator, the visionary architect Frank Gehry, is laid out chronologically to chart Arnell’s creative journey as a visual storyteller.
The back wall of the exhibition is filled with photos of New York from the early years of Arnell’s career: a silvery portrait of Andy Warhol, the city skyline with the Twin Towers still intact, Arnell’s iconic DKNY mural when it was first painted on Houston Street in 1992. They act as a visual diary of the artist’s life, punctuated by his first forays into more abstract imagery such as still life photographs showing a model’s back, her head and neck replaced by a coat hanger in one photo and a close up of an outstretched tongue in another.
The photos map a route that circles the world, from the streets of Tokyo to the monuments of Paris and Rome. They capture the energy that pulsates through each metropolis. A striking attention to detail is one of the most compelling characteristics of Arnell’s work—he trains his lens on distinct features, from the weave of a piece of fabric to the curve of a collarbone. His images are up close and personal.
At last night’s opening party, Arnell’s family, friends and colleagues filled the gallery, including Martha Stewart and Christiaan Houtenbos, who ended up posing with Arnell—cigarettes hanging out of their mouths—as in his 1991 image, “Christiaan Houtenbos, Miami Beach.”
To create the exhibition, Gehry completely transformed the gallery, designing a series of intersecting walls, some solid, others featuring spaced wood paneling that allows you to see through to the next collection of images. Gehry also penned the forward to the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, writing:
“Peter has finally taken a baby step jump into the world of art… I know he is nervous about it, and I keep explaining to him that it only matters that he loves what he is doing and there are people who will equally enjoy and love what he is doing. Hopefully this show of his work will prove my point.”
We’re not ones to doubt Gehry’s opinion when it comes to aesthetics, but we’ll let you decide for yourself. Visit Photographs 1984-2014 by Peter Arnell now through April 1 in the Milk Gallery.