Critics’ Picks

Larry Clark, “Punk Picasso,” 2003. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Larry Clark, “Punk Picasso,” 2003. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

New York

Larry Clark

Luhring Augustine | Chelsea
531 West 24th Street
May 10–June 28, 2003

The surface of Larry Clark’s world is all teen boys and drugs, screwing and screwing up. But the undertow is death, and never has its drag seemed more powerful than in the autobiographical exhibition “Punk Picasso,” which displays photographs, scribblings, newspaper clippings, collages, typed recollections, and all manner of ephemera. The sprawling show begins with a circa-1940 billet-doux addressed to Clark's mother (from his father) and concludes with recent photos of her in the bedridden end-stages of Alzheimer's. In between is Tulsa; jail time; friendships with, among others, River Phoenix and Martin Kippenberger; Teenage Lust; and Clark’s films, from Kids through Ken Park, which debuts this summer. (Its star, Clark’s girlfriend Tiffany Limos, is featured prominently in “Punk Picasso.” In a comic and mildly heartbreaking video, Clark displaces his excitement about her impending homecoming onto a yapping white mutt named Snappy.) The profusion of detail is vast, novelistic, and ultimately elegiac. Clark has always wanted to freeze time—consider his fixation on the awful yet glorious moment of adolescence; the illusory time-stoppings of drugs and sex; the choice of the photographic medium itself—and the documentation of so many fugitive moments only sharpens the hopelessness of such a drive. But Clark’s archive of loss has drawn throngs, whose engrossed wanderings through a stranger’s memories underscore an aspect of his work that’s overlooked by detractors: It’s fundamentally life-embracing, not life-negating.