Narcissus Enters the Apocalypse: Anthony Goicolea Earned a Legion of Fans and Collectors for His Homoerotic Photo Montages of Adolescent Boys at Play. When He Switched to Photographing Grim Landscapes and Family Narratives, Not Everyone Went Along

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IF EVERY FICTION BEGINS IN TRUTH, artist-photographer Anthony Goicolea's reality is his appearance. Goicolea, 37, first made his mark posing for his own photographs as young boys (and occasionally girls) behaving badly in various settings. The kids in his work would masturbate in a classroom, for instance, or one would spit in another's mouth or urinate on one another in a bathtub. The photographs looked as polished as an advertising campaign-Goicolea actually once made a 30-minute film for Thorn Browne's spring 2007 collection--but ambiguous enough to pass for art. They hit all the high notes-they were easy to look at, readily digestible, and appealed to our indulgence for budding sexuality and gender. Elton John bought 20 pieces.

But sometime around 2002 all that stopped. In one last flourish of self-absorption, the Cuban-American artist shot the "water series," in which he masqueraded as boys who appear to be at once drowning and in rapture. They must not have survived the water, because Goicolea immediately began taking landscape photographs instead. At first his new pieces were populated only by animals, though young men-not Goicolea-eventually crept back in, albeit dwarfed by their natural surroundings. Those images gave way by 2007, for the most part, to black-and-white industrial hallucinations dominated by smokestacks and power lines. Narcissus' pool had become slick with oil.

New Yorker critic Vince Aletti, a fan of the artist's multiple-Goicolea tableaux, says he wasn't sure how to relate to the apocalyptic photos. "I don't remember them that well," he says. "They don't cut very vividly to mind--and I missed the figures. …