Currently on view at LACMA through March 22nd is a fantastic retrospective of photographer Larry Sultan. Larry is a recent influence on me, making work that (in his words) is “merged between staged and documentary, and the truth is how we perform”.
The show is broken into 5 sets:
1. images of migrant workers in suburbia
2. personal images of Larry’s parents and also archival images from his family albums
3. work from “In The Valley”, behind-the-scenes of the porn scene.
4. commissioned portrait work of celebrities/ pseudo-celebrities like Paris Hilton
5. Larry’s college work with Mike Mandel utilizing archival images culled from companies like JPL and magazines.
One of the unifying themes in Sultan’s images are the use of mid-20th century pastel color schemes and references, even in work shot in the 2000s. There’s the documentary storytelling amongst the craft of an artist who doesn’t take life too seriously, but could break your heart with his jokes. Every subject choice reveals something new to the viewers- you see bored production assistants as porn is being filmed, a migrant worker spending the night outside, trying to sleep on the ground next to an idyllic suburban creek.
The bonus of the exhibit is the video interview with Larry- a unique artist who is down-to-earth, not pretentious in any sense, but a deep thinker and reader who declared a “study hall” daily at his studio. During this hour everyone would stop working and read up on some philosophy or news item even if it was from a POV they disagreed with.
Those qualities of humanism, humor and storytelling make for phenomenal photographs and I hope to incorporate these lessons from Larry Sultan in my own 2015 work.
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