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  • Author: SAMEER REDDY
  • Date: FEBRUARY 1, 2010
  • Format: DIGITAL

The Nifty 50

David Benjamin Sherry, Photographer

David Benjamin Sherry

This month, T celebrates the Nifty 50: America’s up-and-coming talent.

The photographer David Benjamin Sherry spent his early 20s wondering when it was going to happen, “it” being his career as an artist. With a recently released monograph, as well as his second solo show, at the Schlechtriem Brothers gallery in Berlin’s Mitte district, it’s clear that Sherry has his answer.

Born in Long Island, Sherry’s family relocated to Woodstock, N.Y., when he was 5. The hippie-ish environment was a formative influence. His iconic landscapes envisage humans as part of an organic whole, placing them in a natural context and using body paint as camouflage to blur the lines between the body and its environment. Other images deploy psychedelic symbols, from the inverted pyramid to washes of color that mimic an auric field. It’s all very trippy, without the dippy.

His work exhibits a refreshing lack of irony; instead, sincerity seems to be his guiding principle. There’s truth in the work for me,” he says. “I look to the images for a sense of who I am, and I hope people can sense that. A lot of these pictures have me in them. Some people ask, ‘Are you a narcissist?’ But I don’t think so. … I’m just dealing with myself.”

Sherry first became interested in making art thanks to a high school teacher who pushed him to explore his potential. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, he attended Yale’s prestigious M.F.A. program. Once he left New Haven, Sherry had to adjust to the harsher reality of trying to make it on his own. You’re babied and then you get out there and you don’t have a ready-made audience, he says of the world beyond Yale. He seems to have managed, partially by being open to exploring avenues that might scare off other artists. He was approached after his thesis show by an agent from AFG Management, and his work was embraced by the fashion community. He has shot for I-D, Dazed and Confused, Japanese Vogue, Another Man and 032C, among others. He’s comfortable with the different intentions that underlie his fashion versus fine-arts shoots, observing that it’s a different type of work. It’s people who really want to problem solve, to make this glove or this model look good. Art, on the other hand, can be problem-making.

Pressed about the potential pitfalls of being a young art star in the making during one of the most difficult periods in the history of the contemporary art market, Sherry is optimistic. “I couldn’t think of a better time,” he says. “It’s the end, literally [of a decade] … and we’ve entered this whole great moment. It was about how you were living and what parties you were going to, but since the economic meltdown, a lot of artists are now coming up. We can’t go back and make work in this sensational money, money, money way. It’s a new era.” Spoken like a true child of the Age of Aquarius.