The Best Artist You’ve Never Heard Of

11/07/2012 4:00 AM |

Thanks to Superstorm Sandy I’ve spent a good deal more time looking at art on the Internet than I do when galleries are open—which has been pretty sweet, as it allowed me to discover Daniel Arnold. He’s a street photographer with a Tumblr and an Instagram account—and my vote for this year’s artist most deserving of gallery representation.

In my circles Arnold is best known as the famed Instagram user who had his account suspended last June thanks to a few boob shots that went viral. The image that got him in trouble can’t be beat: it’s a photo of two topless women at Fort Tilden Beach, one giggling as she takes a snapshot of her friend, and it’s creepy as all hell. Arnold is obviously peeping, but the narrative constructed is much darker than that; the woman being photographed has her hands behind her back and a black dress draped on her head as if it were a hood. She looks like she’s about to be shot by her
laughing friend.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that that image got his account banned—Instagram is a bastion of romantic sunsets, supersaturated still lifes of food, and vintage-filtered puppies, so his picture sticks out—but it’s a shame nonetheless. As Gawker’s Adrian Chen tells it, since having his account reinstated, Arnold’s Instagram hasn’t been the same; he holds back. This isn’t good for an artist who simply shoots what he sees.

Unfortunately, like most of us, I wouldn’t know the difference. I didn’t follow him back in the day, and his Instagram account is now private. What we’re left with then is his Tumblr, which, frankly, is incredible. Among the countless images he’s posted on the site is a shot of a white poodle’s gaping mouth as it viciously barks at another froufrou dog in Central Park; a woman inside a large house on a street corner, pressing her hand against the window as if captured; and the back of a man in Greenpoint with his head so bent over he looks decapitated. Like many of Arnold’s best shots they construct a macabre false narrative. No one is actually stuck in a house or has lost their head. But the idea that they might be, or might have, is titillating.

Of course, the Tumblr isn’t perfect. Arnold occasionally dabbles in the theatrical, a weakness demonstrated in shots like the one he took of a woman in white surrounded by a forest, or the man quietly watching a fire brightly burn in the dark, but that’s fine. Commercial-crossover Ryan McGinley has similar inclinations, and it hasn’t affected his career at all. All Arnold needs is a gallery, and we’ll be seeing his work alongside McGinley’s in no time.

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