Thursday, July 14, 2011

RYAN MCGINLEY SUED IN COPYRIGHT CASE

At left, Janine Gordon, Plant Your Feet on the Ground, 2000, and at right, Ryan McGinley, Levi’s advertisement, 2010Artist Janine “Jah Jah” Gordon has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against photographer Ryan McGinley for copyright infringement, arguing that 150 of McGinley’s photographs, including several used in an ad campaign for Levi’s, a co-defendant in the suit, are “substantially based” on Gordon’s original work. According to Gordon’s complaint, the trouble began nearly 10 years ago, when both Gordon and McGinley had exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art -- Gordon in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, and McGinley in his break-through solo exhibition “The Kids Are Alright” the following year. McGinley’s proximity to Gordon’s work “during the preparation and display of the Whitney exhibition in which he participated,” her lawyer argues, gave him “total and complete access to view and examine the Gordon images featured in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.” Both parties have also shown at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt as well as at Ratio 3 gallery in San Francisco; Ratio 3 along with Peter Hay Halpert Fine Arts and Team Gallery, which show McGinley's photographs, are also defendants in the suit. Gordon's complaint alleges that the galleries “had the right, authority and ability to control or supervise McGinley’s actions, failures and omissions.” McGinley’s guilt was compounded, at least in Gordon’s mind, in 2003, when she ran into him at a PS1 opening and he responded with “a fearful gasp and speedy retreat into the crowd,” according to the complaint. Among the disputed images is a black-and-white shot of a woman flipping her head back, hair in motion. Gordon’s lawyers say that McGinley’s photo, taken 15 years later, copies her subject matter, its centered composition and its spotlighting, which in both cases illuminates the left side of the body and shadows the right. In another image, Gordon’s subject is a young man in a mosh pit looking up toward the ceiling, his mouth agape and arms outspread. In the McGinley comparison, part of the artist’s series of carefree youth for the Levi’s campaign, the model is also marveling upward with arms outstretched, but is set against a pink sunset with falling leaves. “This is an art world travesty, when artists can freely steal from another artist for 10 years and be praised, paid and dance in the sun all day,” Gordon said in an email to Artnet News, adding that her prints go for $5,000 while those of her younger, more successful counterpart might go for $20,000. Levi's Key People
• Chairman: Richard L. Kauffman
• Chairman Emeritus: Robert D. (Bob) Haas
• President, CEO, and Director: Charles V. (Chip) Bergh
Click on Photos for a wider view.


Former New Museum curator Dan Cameron supported Gordon's case in an affidavit. “My long-term expertise as a critic and curator gives me, I believe, sufficient authority to say, without hesitation, that Ms. Gordon’s work is completely original, in concept, color, composition and content, and that Ryan McGinley has derived much of his work from her creations,” he writes. - Rachel Corbett