Photographer Larry Sultan to be Remembered at LACMA

The late Californian Photographer Larry Sultan will be remembered at LACMA with the show “Larry Sultan: Here and Home.” The first retrospective show of the artist’s work, “Here and Home” will run from November 9, 2014 to March 22, 2015 and feature 200 photos from Sultan’s five major bodies of work. The LACMA website states that “Sultan never stopped challenging the conventions of photographic documentation, exploring themes of family, home and facade throughout his career.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised mostly in  Los Angeles, Sultan didn’t always intend to become a professional artist. He earned a B.A. in political science at UC Santa Barbara before earning an M.F.A. in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1973. A few years later, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts burning a hole in his pocket, Sultan teamed up with his classmate Mike Mandel for the 1977 photography book “Evidence.” Sultan’s first major body of work, “Evidence” is filled with photos from the archives of several large companies, agencies and research institutions. According to the New York Times, “The pictures they chose from the archives, out of the hundreds of thousands they examined, were a strange, stark, sometimes disturbing vision of a late-industrial world: a space-suited figure sprawled face down on a carpeted floor; a car consumed in flames; a man holding up a tangle of weeds like a trophy; a shaved monkey being held down by a gloved hand.”

In addition to “Evidence,” four of Sultan’s solo bodies of work will be represented at the LACMA event. “Swimmers” (1978–81) features the photos Sultan took of people learning how to swim, while “Pictures from Home” (1982–92) is more personal, comprised of stills from home movies and photos of Sultan’s parents. “The Valley” (1998–2003) features photos from (you guessed it) the San Fernando Valley, namely suburban homes that were rented out for pornographic film shoots, but what Sultan found was more mundane than sexy or glamorous.

“The furnishings and objects in the house, which have been carefully arranged, become estranged from their intended function,” Sultan observed in an article he wrote for L.A. Weekly in 2004. “The roll of paper towels on the coffee table; the bed linens in a pile by the door; [and] the shoes under the bed are transformed into props or the residue of unseen but very imaginable actions. Even the piece of half-eaten pie on the kitchen counter arouses suspicion.” For “Homeland” (2006–09), his final major work before his death from cancer at age 63, Sultan hired Mexican day laborers to be actors and subjects in his photographs, which were shot on the outskirts of Southern California suburbs.

“Larry Sultan: Here and Home” will be on display Nov. 9, 2014 – March 22, 2015.  For more information, visit here.