Larry Sultan revisited
Big thrill today to see the Larry Sultan retrospective at LACMA today. The show covered everything from his early conceptual work with Mike Mandel (eg Evidence and How to Read Music in One Evening) to the penetrating Home series, The Valley and his last work around the edges of LA suburbs.
We first saw Home in San Fran in the ’90s on our first visit to the States, so it seemed fitting to to see this great show after his death on our third trip. What a difference seeing the actual prints makes. I’ve always loved Home with Sultan’s charged photographs of his parents, interrogation of photography and gritty and accurate use of family and corporate snapshots and home movies. But seeing the Ed Ruscha inspired Evidence and earlier conceptual work made me love the humour of the series. And The Valley – work about the making of porn movies in suburban homes in LA – which I’d always been dissatisfied with in reproduction, was glorious in large prints (at last work that actually justified large format). Sultan was truly a master of portraits of artifice and intimacy. There was also a really interesting extended video interview with him.
The only work that didn’t quite convince was the last series about the edges of suburbia with hired and posed Mexican workers – yet to see posed figures in landscapes that really convince. But no matter the show is a treat and if any galleries in NZ had brains they would bring it over (not hinting or anything).
A quote from the show that Peter and I loved: ” I always thought of a great photograph as if some creature walked into my room: it’s like, how did you get there? What are you made of? It’s truly mysterious, no matter how many pictures I make, I have never depleted that quality of mystery. I am endlessly fascinated. And the more you try to control the world the less magic you get. It’s really about being open and surprised.”
A minor triumph – catching a bus there and back right up the main drag – despite the impression that only poor people and New Zealanders catch buses in LA, it can be done, all for $US3 for an over two hour trip (a special NZ price for when you don’t have the correct money).