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Photography Installation at the Columbia Museum of Art Features Larry Clark's Gritty Images
Untitled, 1963, gelatin silver print. Gift of Diana Henstell CMA 1986.91.23
COLUMBIA, SC.- Larry Clark: Tulsa at the Columbia Museum of Art runs through February 7, 2010 in the Mamie & William Andrew Treadway, Jr. Gallery 15. Widely regarded as one of the most important and influential American photographers of his generation, Larry Clark is known for both his raw and contentious photographs and his controversial films focusing on teen sexuality, violence and drug use. Clark burst into public consciousness with his landmark book Tulsa in 1971, which at the time was called “a devastating portrait of an American tragedy.”

Clark has often been well ahead of the news cycle in confronting the most illicit social problems. This selection of the Tulsa photographs is meant to foster dialogue about critical social issues and the role of artists in presenting and interpreting disturbing themes.

This installation of 20 photographs from Clark’s book, “Tulsa”, documents the aimless drug use, violence and sexual activities of his circle of friends in his hometown. During the years 1963, 1968 and 1971 (Clark served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1964-1966), the Tulsa photographs combine the documentary style and narrative sequencing of a Life magazine photo essay with intimacy and emotional intensity. Over the course of eight years viewers are witness to a progress of decay. In 1963, the faces are young teenagers searching for purpose, kids with needles and crew cuts and ivy-league button-down shirts; 1968, adults lost to society with children of their own, living in a world of their own creation of guns, drugs, sex and violence; 1971, the final mindless depravity of addiction, severed from society with death encroaching on youth.

The graphic and controversial subject matter, the illicit nature of the viewer's engagement and the low-light photography distinguish this style of subjective documentary photography, inspiring film directors Gus van Sant and Martin Scorsese. Clark’s intimate documentary style presents his subjects in a way that allows viewers to feel that they know what happened just before and just after the shutter clicked.

Clark said, “When I did Tulsa, people thought that drugs couldn’t be happening with crew-cut kids in Oklahoma. Look now! Meth is the scourge of the Southwest!”

Clark was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in1943, and was the son of Frances Clark, a baby photographer, and Lewis Clark. He attended Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and studied under Walter Sheffer and Gerard Bakker. Already well known for his revolutionary photographic body of work, including the books “Tulsa” (1971), “Teenage Lust” (1982), and “Perfect Childhood” (1992), his film debut was the movie “Kids” (1995).

He has had solo exhibitions in Galerie Karl Pfefferle, Munich, Germany; Simon Lee Gallery, London, England; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA; and International Center of Photography (ICP), New York, NY, among others.

There are so many ways any member of society can contribute to drug addiction help efforts, whether by way of donations or by increasing awareness of the issue through art.

Columbia Museum of Art | Larry Clark | Tulsa Photographs | Subjective Documentary Photography |

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