Making History

Two Photographers Shoot, Score

It's impossible to argue that McGinley is original; his pictures owe too much to Wolfgang Tillmans, Terry Richardson, Nan Goldin, Bruce LaBruce, and Larry Clark, nearly all of whom are his friends and mentors. But this is McGinley's moment, and he's seized it with a fearlessness that's hard to resist. Even more than Tillmans and LaBruce, he's the perfect embodiment of the post-gay sensibility: a horny queer kid who's not alienated, not conflicted, and not apologetic. Though his subjects are primarily male, their sexuality isn't really an issue, and there are nearly as many nude girls as guys on the Whitney's walls. The most memorable of them, however, is a young man named Donald Eric Cumming, who sits naked in a seamless white space, looking right into our eyes and holding his hard cock. There's nothing particularly artful about the photo (it owes nothing whatsoever to Mapplethorpe), and that's what makes it work: It's rude and funny and fresh. McGinley's strongest pictures feel effortless, matter-of-fact; he's a natural, and you never feel he's trying too hard for effect. His close-up of a guy's crotch in baby-blue trousers splashed with semen couldn't be more understated. If it makes you think of Warhol and Tillmans, that's fine. McGinley's not thinking of history, art or otherwise; he's already getting off his next shot.

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