THE KIDS WERE ALRIGHT

Ryan McGinley's life in pictures

Above: Sace, 2000. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. © Ryan McGinley. Photography Page / Home Page: The Kiss, 2000. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

    BY: Sacia Friedman and Liz MacDonald

    Thursday, March 2, 2017

Back in the ‘90s, Ryan McGinley captured thousands of photos of his daily (and nightly) activities, and the lives of his tightknit crew of downtown friends. He pioneered an approach to photography that’s part documentary, part hedonistic happening. This was all pre-iPhone, pre-selfie, pre-Snapchat: “I was so psychotically obsessed with documenting my life,” he’s said. “All I wanted to do was make pictures of anything and everything. One of my favorite things to do back then would be to go out and get completely demolished and take tons of photos. Then I’d get the film developed and they were like evidence of whatever I had done that night because I usually couldn’t remember any of it.” The images are candid, raw and have a wild energy that hasn’t ebbed in the almost twenty years since.

In 1999, McGinley self-published a book of his prolific work that he called The Kids Are Alright. It led to critical success and a show (as the youngest photographer ever) the Whitney Museum of American Art. With The Kids Were Alright, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver has created an exhibition that includes all of Ryan McGinley’s photographs from that time, the work he completed after his rise to national prominence, plus over 1,500 of McKinley’s Polaroids that will be shown here for the first time.

The show also features the art of Dash Snow and Dan Colen, close friends and collaborators of McGinley’s. Sadly, not all of the kids that McGinley’ documented are still alright—in particular, Dash Snow, who died of a drug overdose in 2009. In that way, this retrospective has an almost nostalgic feeling—it’s a fascinating archive of a time that’s long since passed. 

The Kids Were Alright will be on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver through August 20. You can see a selection of images from the show here, above and below.

 

The Kiss, 2000. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
The Kiss, 2000. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Dash (Manhattan Bridge), 2000. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. Collection of Bart and Bryanna Spaulding. © Ryan McGinley.
Dash (Manhattan Bridge), 2000. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. Collection of Bart and Bryanna Spaulding. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Self Portrait Bathroom, 2000. C-print, 16 x 24 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Self Portrait Bathroom, 2000. C-print, 16 x 24 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Fireworks, 2002. C-print, 40 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Fireworks, 2002. C-print, 40 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Phonebook, 2002. C-print, 30 x 45 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Phonebook, 2002. C-print, 30 x 45 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Lissy 2002. C-print, 26 x 40 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Lizzy, 2002. C-print, 26 x 40 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Dash (Supermarket), 2000. C-print, 40 x 26 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Dash (Supermarket), 2000. C-print, 40 x 26 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Dan Dusted, 2002. C-print, 40 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Dan Dusted, 2002. C-print, 40 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Dan (Bloody Eye), 2002. C-print, 45 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Dan (Bloody Eye), 2002. C-print, 45 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

SACE (Canal Ledge), 2001. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. Collection of Michael and Michelle Fries. © Ryan McGinley.
SACE (Canal Ledge), 2001. C-print, 40 x 60 inches. Collection of Michael and Michelle Fries. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Red Mirror, 1999. C-print, 45 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Red Mirror, 1999. C-print, 45 x 30 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Self Portrait (Crying), 2001. C-print, 16 x 24 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Self Portrait (Crying), 2001. C-print, 16 x 24 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Having Sex (Polaroids), 1999. C-print, 30 x 40 inches. © Ryan McGinley.
Having Sex (Polaroids), 1999. C-print, 30 x 40 inches. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Raina 2001. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley
Raina, 2001. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Ryan 2002. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley
Ryan, 2002. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Amy 2001. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.
Amy, 2001. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Lizzy 2002. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.
Lizzy, 2002. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.

 

Jack 1999. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.
Jack, 1999. Polaroid. © Ryan McGinley.