I met a ton of them at his gallery opening in LA recently.
Nothing in recent years has confused/ annoyed me as much as the rise of photographer Tyler Shields. For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, he's kind of like Banksy (i.e., he makes really, really obvious and lame statements about like, capitalism or whatever) mixed with the Cobrasnake (i.e., a guy who owns a very expensive camera). His work tackles all kinds of big issues, like this picture of a guy in a hazmat suit carting toxic waste out of a McDonald's (GET IT?!), or this one of Mickey Mouse holding a gun (GET IT?!?!), or this one of a Barbie doll snorting cocaine (GET IT!??!).
I know there's tons of that kind of terrible, terrible art out there, so me making fun of it here is pretty easy and pointless. But for some reason, Tyler has gotten HUGE, and nobody seems to have called him out on being the worst. There's even an article on one of his shoots in the Daily Mail today. I know the Daily Mail is hardly American Art Review, but still, it's pretty crazy.
I went along to his art opening in-surprise surprise-Los Angeles a couple of weeks back with the intention of interviewing him. I didn't get a chance to, because he was busy being busy the whole night. But here is some of what I saw.
Before I went over to see what was in the briefcase, I tried to pre-empt the crushing obviousness of its contents by making a list of what I thought would be in there on my phone. It read: "Gun, ball-gag, sex toys, drugs, cash, condoms, other things that a teddy bear wouldn't usually be associated with (apart from by idiot artists)."
Pretty close! And a ski mask n' some lingerie to boot! Consider that wholesome imagery #SUBVERTED
This art-piece greeted you on the way in to the main exhibition space. Again, I think it may have had some kind of Big Message, but unfortunately the themes were too complex for me to decipher.
I actually struggled a bit with this one. I assume it means something mindblowing, but I can't work it out. Something to do with most of the music videos that were made in the mid-00s? An attack on the cultural hegemony of Trigger Happy TV? Or something far more current? I reckon it must be the latter, because otherwise it would be utterly redundant.
There were also a bunch of oddly dressed people dotted around the place. I think this lady was part of the art, but I'm not sure. That's the beauty of LA: You never know if something is "art" or just "a twat."
There were some celebz there. Like Clint Eastwood's daughter, who was filming scenes for a reality show that she and Tyler are starring in about what it's like to be Clint Eastwood's daughter/ wife and, y'know, share a house with an all-male a capella band (apparently it "INCREASES THE DRAMA AND THE FUNNY"). I can only imagine that it is going to be fantastic.
This is what the crew of a reality show looks like, if you were wondering. The three people with poles are holding up lights. Imagine if your entire job was to hold up a light while people filmed Clint Eastwood's daughter trying to critique the artistic equivalent of internet stock photos. Fuuuuck.
This guy, who plays Caleb on Pretty Little Liars, was there.
And the guy who plays Lucas on Pretty Little Liars was also there.
I wish I could think of some way to explain how I recognized those last two people without admitting to you that I watch Pretty Little Liars. But I can't, which is almost as awkward and embarrassing as it must have been when these guys realized one of them was being styled as the "new Johnny Depp" and the other as the "new Jonas step-Brother."
There were a lot of other notables there. I didn't recognize anyone in person, but was able to tell they were VERY IMPORTANT because people kept asking for their photo. I just looked up the event on Getty, and can see that these people were all present: The eldest daughter on Modern Family, the main girl from the 2008 remake of Prom Night, Hilary Duff's sister, some dude from 90210 who spends a lot of time shirtless if his Google Image results are anything to go by, Lady Gaga's musical director, that New York Times journalist who got fired for plagiarism a few years ago, the star of a Teen Wolf remake that I didn't know existed, one of The Hills, a guy who was in something called "Hip Hop Kidz" which I am DEFINITELY going to be checking out later, and the gay younger brother from Gossip Girl. Any one of those people could be in that photo up there. Pretty exciting, eh?
At one point, I listened in on a conversation one of the people mentioned in that list was having, and heard their friend tell them: "He said we should go back to his place to have some blow 'cuz he had some blow at his place, but then we got to his place and there was no blow. It was so fucked up." Scandalous.
I also saw someone else from that list sample the Diet Red Bull at the free bar before ordering. Like how people do with wine in fancy restaurants. AHAHAHAHA.
Fuck. This is depressing. A couple of minutes before I took this photo, this corridor had been pretty much empty. Then Julia Roberts's niece (that's her on the left, in the black dress) decided to hang out there for a while and it turned into this. I wanna give each and every one of the people in this photo a hug. (Except the dude in the screen-printed fedora. I dont want that thing anywhere near me.)
The evening climaxed with this girl pretending to be really ill, and Tyler and some other guy throwing her on to a table and being all "EVERYBODY GET BACK!"
Then Tyler cut off her dress, while the other guy rubbed a bunch of fake blood on her stomach. I fucking hate shit like this. Where everyone present knows it's a joke, but everyone acts as though they don't know it's a joke and indulges it anyway. Like April Fool's Day, or a flash mob, or when strippers dress up as policemen. It makes me uncomfortable.
And then a dove flew out!!! Much to the surprise of that lady in the cream jacket.
Phew. Thank god all of these people were there to capture that moment. I'd hate to think that it might be forgotten. Look at Eastwood's daughter on the left. I don't think anyone told her it wasn't real.
SOMETHING ELSE IS HAPPENING! ARGH!
I didn't stick around to find out what was going on in that previous photo. My patience had worn thin (by which I mean "the free drinks ran out"). And so I left.
This was waiting for someone outside as I exited. Hummer limos, I'm real happy for you, and I'mma let you finish-but this limo is the douchiest limo of all time. OF ALL TIME! (Enough time has elapsed for me to be able to reference that ironically, right? Gosh, I sure hope so. Otherwise I'd be just as bad and as dated as Tyler Shields.)
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @JLCT
Previous artistic dissections on VICE: