The Two-Headed Monster: Rankin-Hirst

Published October 5, 2011

 

 

Take two British masterminds, one fearless model, and lots of colorful prosthetics, and you’ve got something monstrous and beautiful. Photographer, director, and Dazed & Confused cofounder Rankin and groundbreaking YBA visionary Damien Hirst will open their first collaborative show, “Myths, Monsters, and Legends,” on Oct. 12 at RANKIN gallery in Los Angeles. The show features Hirst model-muse Dani Smith recast in various mythical incarnations, including a seductive, modern-day Medusa.

Rankin and Hirst’s collaborative process was natural, given the duo’s mutual vision for the project: to urge the suspension of disbelief in the viewer’s imagination. “We also share a dark sense of humor, and a fascination with the morbid and the surreal,” Rankin says.  The artists each set the bar high for the emotional impact of work; the same is sure to be true of their tandem show.  “It’s emotive, it provokes that gut reaction,” he explained.

Both Hirst’s and Rankin’s works notoriously challenge popular conceptions of beauty, and “Myths, Monsters, and Legends” is no exception.  “It was interesting to leverage Dani’s beauty and contrast it with the ugliness of the prosthetic creatures that we made,” Rankin said.  The five prosthetic outfits Dani Smith donned for the lengthy fittings and shoots—each look was grafted onto her skin—were handmade by Rankin’s go-to guy, Nigel Booth.

Rankin relished the chance to step away from editorial photography to create something surreal and provocative. “There is something really beautiful about the ‘otherness’ of ancient culture,” Rankin said. “Apart from creating a fantasy that wasn’t about fashion, I loved the potential to create images that relate to another time.”

Los Angeles proved a metaphorical choice for the show. “L.A. has the reputation of being very shallow,” Rankin said. “But actually, there is a lot of substance beneath the surface—it has a real dark side, and that intrigues me.”

This may not be the last we’ll see of the two-headed artist, Rankin-Hirst. “I’m always open to more collaborations—especially with Damien. He’s inspiring and has taught me a lot about myself and my work,” Rankin said.  But for now, Rankin is occupied with the launch of his new magazine, The Hunger, set to drop Nov. 17. “It’s about 500 pages, so that’s taking up a lot of my time!”  The content matter is equally weighty.  “It’s all about being hungry to create—that passion and drive that human beings have,” the artist said.