This weekend at the Whitney Biennial I saw the incredible images that are in part Larry Clark's series Tulsa. This is a really powerful documentation of the sex, drug use, and gun play that Clark participated in his 1970s youth where he grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Yes, Clark has received some push back for his subject-matter-- often being called perverted or exploitative. But- whatever the intention you can't call the images so-so. Controversy and quality are not inherently negatively related. If anything I think they might be just the exact opposite.
Clark tells NY Mag in a 2005 interview,"It’s like, I call myself a moralist and my friends fall down laughing. But it’s true! Look at the work—everyone always comments on the photo in Tulsa of a pregnant girl shooting up, like it’s exploitative. Look at the next photo! It’s a funeral. Of a dead baby. I’m always trying to get at the consequences of actions. And if it’s titillating? Well, sometimes I’m dealing with good-looking people having sex, sure, but that’s not the point. The point is the consequences.”
Clarks work includes-- most famously in addition to Tulsa-- Teenage Lust (series), Skaters (series), and Kids (film).
If you're like me and missed the ICP retrospective, here's a second chance--check out floor 5M at the Whitney for a personal look.
Images from top (all by Larry Clark): Untitled (T23), 1963; Dead 1970 (T28), 1970)