Art Out: Total Excess at Milk Gallery
by Celina Huynh
Milk Gallery is currently exhibiting one of the last great rock archives featuring the most iconic rock stars such as Patti Smith, David Bowie, and Lou Reed. The exhibit is titled, “Total Excess,” and is a collection of Michael Zagaris’ unseen photographs which capture the spirit of rock n’ roll.
As with any musical archive, time and place are crucial. Zagaris documented the music scene of 1970s San Francisco, which was the pinnacle of rock. Post Beatles and Pre-MTV, the 70s were arguably rock’s most glorious zenith, and San Francisco’s freedom and openness was the perfect context for its vitality. Most of the pictures were either taken in airports, open-field stages, or hotels. This really says something about the rock n’ roll lifestyle and its sense of impermanence and constant state of transition.
Zagaris’ images immortalize rock icons into print, while still maintaining a slight element of humanity. Looking at a large portrait of Lou Reed lighting a cigarette at the San Francisco Airport, his fuzzy hair and black lacquered nails and black sunglasses, one can’t help but look at him as iconic, even God-like. At the same time, there’s an intimacy to the photo, and perhaps this is the most precious contradiction of rock n’ roll. A lifestyle based on overdose, whether that be drugs or alcohol or pure adrenaline, yet in this total excess, there exists a quiet intimacy, shards of sadness, and stylized pain.
This exhibit is on view through December 18. The gallery is located at 450 West 15th St; Tel: 212-645-2797.