R. Kelly Clipperton's Hogtown Hedonism at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West), through August 28. 416-531-4635. Rating: NNNN
Local renaissance man R. Kelly Clipperton has a unique talent for bringing out the trash glam soul in a person, and when that person burns as fiercely as do so many in our arts scene, the results can be spectacular.
Lined up on the Gladstone's newly renovated second floor are Clipperton's portraits of Toronto artists, actors, filmmakers, dancers, musicians, burlesque divas, ink slingers, provocateurs, drag kings and queens and any other person of interest or note you might have seen, heard or read about over the last 10 years.
These portraits push colour and theatricality in ways that reframe each subject as an icon with maximum impact.
Michael Johnson of the New Kings holds his trumpet aloft as a screaming punk rock skeleton under a bridge; the impossibly lithe Aviva Chernick stares down the camera while doing the crow on a formica table; and Kelly- girl guitarist Amer Diab straddles a cow skull on a rooftop at sunset wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and a cagey glare.
Some of Clipperton's black-and-white photos show a softer temperament. His portrait of a butchified Kitty Neptune in tie and tails leading Sasha Van Bon Bon (both founding members of the Scandelles) is just plain sweet.
Many of these images recall the intimacy of Peter Hujar's portraits from Andy Warhol's Factory scene and marries them with the hard theatrical flair of Annie Leibowitz, punching up the sex and glam quotient of his subjects to surreal levels without sacrificing their uniqueness or vulnerability.
Partly, this is because Clipperton tends to shoot his subjects naked, toting strategically placed props or totems that accentuate their nudity and their pluck. Most of all, however he captures the raw chemistry and talent that's been putting the Toronto scene on the international map.