“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells the less you know.”
– Diane Arbus
In 1958, back when she was a budding photojournalist and before she switched from 35mm to a square format, Diane Arbus captured the public, so to speak. In a photograph entitled “42nd St. Movie Theater Audience”, on view in one of the first rooms of the fascinating, expansive exhibition at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius Bau, single men, sparsely filling the upper floor balcony of a darkened, old-style cinema, languidly dangle their legs over the seats in front of them. The light of the projector cuts through the middle of the frame, gently and inconspicuously illuminating their movements. We can’t see what movie this is, but it doesn’t matter: here, unrehearsed life is the show.
There’s something sordid about the scene in “Audience”; the graininess of the image makes the air seem thick. Outside on 42nd Street—somewhere between Port Authority Bus Terminal and Times Square—it’s probably summer daytime, heat radiating from the dirty chewing gum-speckled sidewalk, legs in slacks and arms in leopard prints, cigarette butts, trash, secrets. None of this is in the photo, but at the same time it is. In Arbus’ oeuvre, the tiny but sharp details, like the beads of sweat on a transvestite’s brow (“A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966”), the clench of a little boy’s hand (“Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962”) or the Bomb Hanoi button on a young man’s lapel (“Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C. 1967”) are all infinitesimal snippets, opening scenarios, from the sprawling, confounding narrative that is New York City.
Though her subjects are to some extent on stage, in her photographs they do not perform. The everyday is exposed for how wildly exotic it actually is—and the exoticism comes from the most unlikely of places: honesty. The ease and unpretentiousness of Arbus’ gaze leaves the people be.
“Since I became a photographer I wished I could turn back the years, always wished I had a camera when I was a boy fucking in the backseat.” –Larry Clark
Larry Clark, who also has a monographic exhibition in Berlin at C/O, ventures even further “behind the scenes”. His approach is markedly more intimate, with photographs that scratch, paw and prick at the autobiographical. Starting out in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma and traversing New York City and Los Angeles over his 40-something year career, Clark documents all the horny young things he imagines he had been—or been in. Taken from his books Tulsa (1971), Teenage Lust (1983) and Perfect Childhood (1989-1992), the photographs ooze unbridled sexuality; every shade of penis is depicted from flaccid to erect.
Yet in Clark’s work all the graphic images of the teenagers turning each other on, shooting up and jerking off don’t add up to anything near exploitation, titillation or pornography. The trust and admiration that comes through in the photos exists because not only is Clark there, but he’s been there.
Perhaps in these days of Facebook and media over-saturation most humans have forgotten how to not pose—even when they’re off camera. The Arbus and Clark exhibitions tenderly hearken back to a time when the photographic portrait still hid more than it revealed. This is documentary photography at its finest. Or rather, it’s art.
Photographs (top to bottom):
Identical Twins, Roselle, N. J. (1967, Diane Arbus)
A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. (1966, Diane Arbus)
Jonathan Velasquez & Tiffany Limos (2003, Larry Clark)
After Harmony Korine wrote the script for Kids, Larry Clark’s ’90s skate-culture masterpiece, within alleged three weeks, everybody fell in love with him. But unlike other underground heroes, he wasn’t consumed and eaten alive by the industry; actually quite the opposite.
In 1997 Korine wrote and directed Gummo. Set in a small town in Ohio, which got hit by a tornado in the ’70s and hadn’t recovered from that incident, it tells the story of adolescents growing up sniffing glue, hunting cats and all kinds of other obscurities. The film features mostly amateur actors with the exception of Linda Manz and Chloe Sevigny (who also designed the costumes), it also has one of the greatest eclectic soundtracks ever.
So take our advice and go see it on Tuesday, December 20th, 2012, at the Filmmuseum in Vienna on the big screen. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Manager of The XX, Caius Pawson announced in a mass email yesterday that he had personally signed the 19 year-old abstract hip-hopper and beats extraordinaire Tyler, the Creator to the XL Recordings label.
The LA based artist signed a one-album deal and is part of the Odd Future crew who late last year attracted huge label and media interest. The crew made up of about ten individual teenagers includes, "rappers, producers, visual artists, skate kids, contrarians, outcasts, amoral teenagers, and fatherless children" who also received a lot of wanted attention because of their lyrics that dealt with murder, kidnapping, blasphemy, and rape. Fans of the crew also include Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA and the photographer Larry Clark.
Upon his signing to XL Recordings signing, Tyler said on Twitter, "Yes, I Did A One Album Thing With XL. Thats Family. Don’t Trip, Still Have %100 Creative Control Over Raps, Beats, Videos, Covers. Fuck You."
The video for the first single below "Yonkers", references a more Anti-Pop Consortium/Madvillian style, but for anyone that wants to go back to the original horrorcore rap source, look no further than Necro. This will be Tyler’s second solo album entitled Goblin which will be released in April.
If you feel like exploring the LA-collective further, check out Earl, who is a 16-year old member of the Odd Future crew, and on hiatus for being a juvenile trouble-maker, he made this "tasteful" video.