Robert Longo's first exhibition in New York since 1990 Bodyhammers: Cult of the Gun opens at Metro Pictures on 30 October and continues through 27 November. This new body of work addresses the evocative image of the gun as a symbol of ever- increasing violence. The guns, like Longo's earlier Men in the Cities drawings, incorporate the contradictions of simultaneous terror and beauty, grandeur and threat.
On exhibit are eight large-scale charcoal and graphite drawings of different types of handguns and a single sculpture made of over 20,000 bullets (representing the number of deaths caused by handguns in the United States in one year). Four drawings of pistols viewed straight down their barrel appear to be, rather than purely terrifying, elegant abstractions of high-tech equipment such as video cameras and cellular phones. The other guns, a magnum, police revolvers and a military dress gun, are seen from various suggestive angles, more specifically evocative but no less abstract and equally difficult to fix on as representations of a terrible reality. The confusion over the attraction and romanticism of these lethal weapons is especially apparent in the provocative Smith & Wesson revolver with its open fully-loaded magazine and 38-caliber bullets visible. The iconic quality of the images conflicts with the social and political reality of their meaning. No critique of ideology seems able to carry enough discursive flexibility to compete with the presence of the pure visual encounter.
Robert Longo's work has been exhibited extensively in galleries and museums throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. His most recent museum exhibitions took place at the Ho-Am Museum in Seoul, Korea, and the Basel Kunsthalle, Switzerland. For the past several years he has also worked in opera and theater design and direction in Europe including set design and co-direction of Mozart's Lucio Silla at the Salzburg Festival, and set and costume design and co-direction for the Zurich production and subsequent tour of Klaus Pole's A Suicide in Madrid. In December Longo will begin directing his first feature film Johnny Mnemonic from a script by William Gibson (the author of the novels Neuromancer and Virtual Light) based on his short story and starring Val Kilmer, Juliet Binoche, Ice-T, Bono (of U-2), Dolph Lundgren and Barbara Sukowa (the artist's wife). The music score for the film will be written by the band U-2.