donderdag 17 december 2009

Evidence a witty and provocative look at contemporary American culture Larry Sultan Photography

In 1977, photographers Larry Sultan (USA) and Mike Mandel (USA) published a book of photographs entitled Evidence. Accompanied by an exhibition in the same year at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this project was the culmination of a three-year search through the files and archives of over one hundred American government agencies, educational institutions, and corporations, such as the Bechtel Corporation, General Atomic Company, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, the San Jose Police Department and the United States Department of the Interior.

The original pictures Sultan and Mandel collected were made as documents and objective records of activities and situations: the scenes of crimes, aeronautical engineering tests, industrial experiments, among other subjects. Sifting through some two million images, Mandel and Sultan assembled a careful sequence of 59 pictures.

Evidence is, as the artists stated back in the 1970s, ‘a poetic exploration upon the restructuring of imagery.’ Pictures that once served a functional purpose in the world are, in this exhibition, stripped of their explanatory captions and institutional contexts, carefully sequenced, and presented as expressive artefacts. In this new setting, the images testify to cryptic and dubious rituals, to a culture of dehumanising, ambiguous institutional values, to mid-century industry regarded as a religion.

Although the exhibition carefully articulates the reading of the photographs in terms of their ‘documentary’ origins, the photographs are reproduced without captions identifying specific images or their sources. The photographs here serve as answers to questions long ago abandoned. Faced with a world of mysterious events and unfathomable activities, we are provided with only the sequential narrative of the book and are actively required to participate in creating its meaning.




Evidence. Photographs by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel. Text by Sandra Phillips and Robert Forth, Distributed Art Publishers’, New York, 2003. 108 pp., 25 black-and-white and 61 duotone illustrations, 9¾x9″.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- c reported that one of its most beloved faculty members, Larry Sultan, died of cancer on Sunday. He was a distinguished professor in both the undergraduate Photography Program and the Graduate Program in Fine Arts and had taught at CCA since 1988.

Tammy Rae Carland, chair of the Photography Program, says, "Larry Sultan was one of the most compassionate, generous educators I've ever known. He was a great mentor, a great teacher, a great colleague. He had a lot of success in his own career but continued to be vital to the Photography Program. He really cared about its pedagogical development, about keeping it current and lively. He was incredibly generous with his students, always sharing his network, his experience, his connections. He got a tremendous amount of pleasure out of teaching."

Sandra S. Phillips, senior curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, says, "Larry Sultan was a leading figure in the Bay Area art community. He was one of our great friends and a gifted artist. His work has been shown in our museum regularly since the 1970s. His responses to our world have always been both intensely personal and wonderfully humane, accessible, intelligent, and sympathetic."

Larry Sultan was born in New York in 1946 and moved with his family to Southern California in 1949. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He received a BA in 1968 from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an MFA in 1973 from the San Francisco Art Institute. In San Francisco he was represented by Stephen Wirtz Gallery.

In addition to his teaching career and extensive commercial work for 'W Magazine', 'Vanity Fair', and other important clients, he produced a large and widely influential body of personal work. His first major project was a collaboration with the artist Mike Mandel: a book of appropriated photographs titled 'Evidence' and a subsequent exhibition organized by SFMOMA in 1977. The pictures came from the files of government agencies, corporations, and research institutions, offering a witty and provocative look at contemporary American culture.

In 1992 Sultan compiled the book and accompanying exhibition "Pictures from Home". The decade-long project began when his father, a vice president at Schick Safety Razor Company, was forced into early retirement. Sultan started by photographing his parents and their home lives, then expanded the undertaking to include extensive diaristic writing, family artifacts, and stills from his parents' home movies.

Working in the San Fernando Valley on "Pictures from Home" led Sultan to his next project, "The Valley", an investigation of suburban houses used as sets for pornographic films. Like "Pictures from Home", the project focused on Southern California culture, engaging ideas of truth, fantasy, and artifice in the context of home and middle-class domesticity. "The Valley" was presented at SFMOMA in 2004 as a solo exhibition of more than 50 large-scale photographs shot between 1999 and 2003. In the pictures, mundane objects such as a roll of paper towels or a bored woman in high heels become symbolically charged, inviting speculation.

Sultan exhibited internationally throughout his career. His work is in the collections of SFMOMA; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Tate Modern, London. He received numerous grants and awards, including five NEA grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Louis Tiffany Comfort Award, and a Fleishhacker Fellowship.



Ironische blik op omgeving

Larry Sultan (1946-2009), fotograaf

Sandra Smallenburg

Necrologie | Woensdag 16-12-2009 | Sectie: Kunst | Pagina: 09 | Sandra Smallenburg

Fotograaf Larry Sultan gebruikte zijn ouders als symbool voor het naoorlogse Amerika. Hij had een directe, harde stijl.

Merkwaardig toch dat hij er op iedere foto ouder uitziet dan ik eruit zie als ik zo oud ben als hij, schreef de Amerikaanse fotograaf Larry Sultan in het begin van zijn boek Pictures from Home (1992) over zijn vader Irvin. Jarenlang had Sultan zijn ouders met de camera gevolgd in hun Californische buitenwijk. Genadeloos had hij hun gezapige leven vastgelegd in felrealistische fotos: vader die luiert bij het zwembad of golf speelt op het hoogpolige tapijt van de woonkamer. Moeder - gefacelift en nog altijd slank - die in de keuken een kalkoen bereidt. En dat ene, fraaie portret van zijn vader, Dad on Bed, van een man strak in pak op de rand van het bed die een tergend uitgebluste indruk maakt. Nu blijkt dat Larry Sultan nooit meer de leeftijd zal bereiken die zijn vader toen had. Hij overleed afgelopen zondag in zijn woonplaats Greenbrae in Californië aan de gevolgen van kanker, op 63-jarige leeftijd.


Met zijn directe stijl, zijn harde kleurgebruik en persoonlijke onderwerpkeuze was Sultan van grote invloed op de generatie fotografen na hem. Al lang voor Richard Billingham koos hij zijn eigen familie als studieobject. En ver voor Martin Parr bevroeg hij het auteurschap van fotografie door met gevonden beelden te werken. Zijn eerste boek Evidence (1977) bestond uit documentaire fotos die hij uit beeldbanken van bedrijven en instanties had geplunderd.


Sultan was geboren in Brooklyn, maar groeide op in de San Fernando Valley in Californië. Zijn vader was een vertegenwoordiger die zich opwerkte tot onderdirecteur van de scheermesjesfabriek Schick, zijn moeder een huisvrouw die op latere leeftijd carrière maakte als makelaar. De Sultans stonden, met hun gestage stijging op de sociale ladder, symbool voor het naoorlogse Amerika. Dat begreep Sultan goed toen hij begin jaren tachtig zijn ouders begon te volgen in een project dat tien jaar zou duren.


In 2004 verscheen het fotoboek The Valley, waarvoor Sultan een minder gezapige kant van het leven in de San Fernando Valley vastlegde. Hij bezocht de talloze sets voor pornofilms die ook in de villas van suburbia te vinden zijn. En ook uit deze fotos sprak de ironische blik waarmee Sultan zijn omgeving bekeek. Porno was in zijn ogen vooral iets lamlendigs.


Foto-onderschrift: Sultan: Sharon Wild (2003)
Trefwoord:
Fotografie
Persoon: Larry Sultan

Op dit artikel rust auteursrecht van NRC Handelsblad BV, respectievelijk van de oorspronkelijke auteur.


1 opmerking:

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