Critics’ Picks

Untitled (T19), 1963.

London

Larry Clark

Simon Lee | London
12 Berkeley Street
December 8, 2005–January 20, 2006

On view are selections from “Tulsa” and “Teenage Lust,” two of Larry Clark’s well-known early black-and-white photographic series. The former’s unsparing depiction of youth rebellion, drug use, and sex in the American Midwest has enjoyed widespread influence, even providing a visual model for Taxi Driver (1976) and Rumble Fish (1983). Clark began the series in 1963, photographing friends on afternoons spent shooting heroin in anodyne family living rooms; when he resumed work in ’71, anti-Vietnam dissent and sexual liberation had visited the town, and the halcyon mood of the previous photos was replaced by restless discontent. The protagonists—now clad as hippies, bikers, and militants—were having group sex, beating up informers, and brandishing guns. Everyone was still shooting up: The longest wall of images in the exhibition is a frieze of bared arms. Naked couples, threesomes, and even a pregnant mother (beatifically bathed in light) are captured mid-injection. Some of the photographs from “Teenage Lust” are by now iconic portrayals of precocious adolescents. They take turns having sex with a girl they picked up, fondle each other in the backseat of a car, or play bondage games with a rope and gun. At the time they were taken, his images of unabashed teenage desire articulated an early phase of pop-cultural fascination with the freedoms of youth; today they help shape it.