Ari Marcopoulos (1957) is a photographer and filmmaker. Born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, he currently lives and works in Sonoma in rural northern California. However, he shoots his photographs everywhere, on the snow-capped mountaintops of the world, in the trail of a small tribe of professional snowboarders, in the garden at home, along Japan’s rugged coastlines or in the streets of New York. Exhibition space MU in De Witte Dame in Eindhoven is proud to be the first in Europe to present from March 17 till April 16 the exhibition Flow, a comprehensive overview of Marcopoulos’ work.
In more than twenty-five years, Marcopoulos has built an oeuvre populated by the most heterogeneous characters ranging from world-famous artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, pop heroes such as the Beastie Boys, top snowboarders and skaters to anonymous street kids, rappers and his own sons and wife. Typical of Marcopoulos’ oeuvre is the intimateness that pervades all of his works.
Whatever company he finds himself in, he is never an outsider, never merely an onlooker like so many of his fellow-photographers. Marcopoulos belongs to the world he registers, he knows the people in front of his lens personally and intimately. And they know him. They trust him. And their trust enables him to reach beyond the poses and the shallow looks and grasp the essence of everyday appearances. That’s where heroes become ordinary boys and ordinary boys become heroes, where boredom and fun, passion and friendship are taking shape.
Marcopoulos’ intimate family portraits and panoramic landscapes are markedly different from his popular works of street, underground and extreme sports scenes, yet they all share the typical Marcopoulos aesthetic. In the course of time, Marcopoulos, autodidact and never particularly interested in the technical aspects of photography, learned to handle the medium expertly. He makes use of Photoshop and pocket camera without ever compromising his principles. Besides, he rarely finds his sources and kindred spirits among photographers but in other disciplines such as architecture and visual arts. And in other epochs: he is especially fascinated by the portrait and genre painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
In the USA and Japan, Marcopoulos is a big name, but in Europe his work is so far less well-known. The exhibition Flow is certain to bring about a change in this situation. Supported by a size-wise rather limited yet thematically all-embracing overview of the foundations of his photographic oeuvre, Marcopoulos offers in MU a relevant overview of the most recent developments in his work.
In well over seventy photographs, he brings the intimate nature of his work to perfection only to abandon it completely somewhat later. Even though people are generally the leitmotiv in his work, sometimes they have vanished from sight. What remains are endless landscapes full of ice, water and clouds.
In general, Marcopoulos’ closest photographic objects are the people around him, his wife Jennifer Goode and his sons Cairo and Ethan. As a spectator, you get an eyeful of them, including the daily misadventures, scratches and bruises, bloody noses and measles that make a (young) human being a human being. Razor-sharp and as in a moment of utter stillness, Marcopoulos catches the little aches of human existence, the ones that you rarely see but infallibly recognize.
The bumps and bruises of his sons are in sharp contrast with the extreme injuries of the snowboarders and skaters in Marcopoulos’ oeuvre. His sons’ scratches are symbols of life’s gentle teachings – What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger - , but the deep scars and broken bones of the tough kids defying the snow and the streets are worn like real trophies. Proudly parading up and down, they lift their shirts or show off their braces while they have their photographs taken.
In the course of the years, Marcopoulos has shot many thousands of action photos and films for well-known magazines such as Transworld Snowboarding, and various large snowboard brands. In that area, he ranks among the best in the world. In his free work, however, he was like a kind of cultural anthropologist always focussed on life among the kicks of the small group of free-and-easy top sporters, whom he soon enough came to know personally. Therefore, instead of spectacular or stylized jumps, he shows you people bored out of their skulls in desolate hotel rooms, waiting until the umpteenth snowstorm has blown out and the chopper can take off. The games and porn, drugs and booze that help kill the time. Sunburnt noses, swathed necks, exhausted bodies after a day full of ‘transitions and exits’ from summits covered in fresh, white snow.