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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Larry Clark at Luhring Augustine

Top Image:  Larry Clark, Adam, Marfa, TX, 2011
© Larry Clark; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

  In the world of photography, Larry Clark is known for his iconic 1971 photo series Tulsa. Shot between 1963 and 1971, Tulsa depicts in graphic detail the grimy lives of his boyhood companions as they engage in drug use, sex, and violence. His Tulsa images have become archetypes of documentary photography. They transport the viewer into the chaotic, ever-changing, world of youth complete with all of its drama, ecstasy, and regrets. The images are strong in black and white; each is a statement of purpose and certainty, though his teenage subjects lack both. They are snapshots of youth from the perspective of one of their own.

Now 71 years old, it seems Clark has yet to lose his obsession with youth. His latest exhibition they thought i were but i aren't anymore, at Luhring Augustine in Chelsea could easily be classified as an extension of Tulsa. In his more recent color photographs, paintings, collages, and other works created over the last fifty years and featured in the exhibition continue his exploration of youth. Both old and new, these works go perfectly together. It is not that they are either individually or collectively particularly groundbreaking pieces; rather the opposite is true. These works are all incredibly cliché. Though Clark's early photographs were considered innovative in the 1970s when they first came out, since then their casual and intimate narrative style and their emphasis on overt sexuality and drug use has been copied over and over in iterations. In time his style has lost it originality. It has become a trope. Even his more recent photographs, like those of Adam in they thought i were but i aren't anymore, present classic but tired imagery. This handsome youth could be plucked out of any Renaissance painting, though in this case he has been chewed up and spit out one too many times. His photo collages are rife with the same raw sexual imagery he has used for years, yet without the emotional power or freshness of his earlier work.

Clark's latest exhibition reads as a sad attempt by an old man to cling on to youth. His own art, though it stems directly from his own experience, has not aged or really evolved since his Tulsa years. This exhibition is nostalgic in the most negative sense of the word. Although his pieces are meant to punctuate the fleeting essence of youth, he has instead done just the opposite. Clark is no longer a young man documenting his own generation but rather someone whose work hopelessly grasps for an identity he no longer possesses.

Don't trust anyone over thirty.

 
 

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Larry Clark, Billy Mann, 1961

© Larry Clark; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

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Larry Clark, I want a baby before u  die, 2010

© Larry Clark; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

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Larry Clark, They thought I were  but I aren't anymore…

Installation view June 7 - August 1, 2014

Luhring Augustine, New York

Photo: Farzad Owrang

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Larry Clark, Self portrait, 2014

© Larry Clark; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

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Larry Clark, Untitled, 1972 - 2014

© Larry Clark; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

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Larry Clark, Knoxville (homage to Brad Renfro), 2011

© Larry Clark; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

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Larry Clark, Johnny Bridges, 1961

© Larry Clark; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

 

 

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