By Elizabeth Ladzinski
UPPER EAST SIDE — Early work by famous celebrity portrait photographer David LaChapelle will be shown at the Michelman Fine Art gallery starting Tuesday, with the pop art photographs acting as the gallery's inaugural exhibition.
"We decided to open the gallery as a sort of experiment," said Joan Michelman. She's worked as a private art dealer since 1974, and has now partnered with her daughter, Rebecca, to open the Michelman Fine Art Gallery on the third floor of 1020 Madison Avenue.
LaChapelle is known for his brightly colored, over-the-top and at times sexually-explicit portraits of celebrities — including controversial figures like Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson. More recently, he's been hailed as a post-modern pop photographer.
The exhibit will reveal photographs taken by LaChapelle from 1984 to 1987 that haven't been shown in New York for over 20 years, including photographs from LaChapelle's first solo show, "Angels, Saints and Martyrs."
"You really see the beginning of his talent, and you see the themes he becomes obsessed with over the next 20 years," the younger Michelman said.
An important piece on display is LaChapelle's portrait of Andy Warhol — the last one taken of the famed pop artist before his death.
"He's brilliant," said Rebecca Michelman. "He placed him in front of a wall of Holy Bibles, which foreshadows the deity that Warhol would become in the art world."
Ultimately, the exhibit will show how LaChapelle's early works developed into his lush photo-scapes on the themes of religion, sex, death, money and consumption.
"For anyone familiar with his work, it's fascinating to see the early examples," Rebecca Michelman said.
"David LaChapelle, Early Work 1984 - 1987," is showing at the Michelman Fine Art Gallery at 1020 Madison Avenue, 3rd Floor, from May 3 to June 15, 2011.