Celebs as Sinners and Saints: The Work of David LaChapelle [NSFW]

What do Michael Jackson, Courtney Love, and Kanye West have in common? Other than being notorious for what they did or didn’t do, the photographer David LaChapelle, of course. Renowned for his outrageous fashion photos and editorial portraits for magazines, videos for pop and rock stars, and crunk-dance-film Rize, LaChapelle is a top-billing commercial photographer who’s rapidly gaining credibility in the art world. LaChapelle’s latest works, which are both big productions and labors of love, show Michael Jackson as a martyr, Pope Benedict XVI as a greedy ruler with a bevy of bound teenage boys at his feet, and an exposed Naomi Campbell in the role of Botticelli’s Venus are on view in the final days of a solo show at New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Meanwhile, in a survey at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel, LaChappelle’s personal work is shown alongside his subversive commercial work. Titled David LaChapelle: Postmodern Pop Photography, the show features fashion shots that capture accidents with a giant hamburger and can of Coca-Cola; Jesus making interventions in urban street life scenarios; and Courtney Love and Kanye West in saintly poses. Beautifully staged, these pictures, as well as others by the artist, mix glamour and art history to provocative ends.

David LaChapelle: American Jesus runs through September 18 at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, while David LaChapelle: Postmodern Pop Photography remains at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art through October 23.

David LaChapelle, American Jesus, chromogenic print, 96 x 72 inches, Courtesy the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery