New York, 525 West 22nd Street
Yancey Richardson presents Domestic Theater, an exhibition that explores California artist Larry Sultan’s (1946-2009) investigation of the theatrical within domestic settings, both real and constructed. The works in the exhibition are selected from Sultan’s series Pictures from Home (1983), Home Movie Stills (1984 - 92) and The Valley (1997 – 2003) in addition to his editorial work (1993 – 2009) for Wallpaper magazine and ??? Throughout his career Sultan probed the medium of photography, experimenting with its structure and questioning its truthfulness. Inherently a storyteller, he blurred the boundaries between fiction and reality, blending spontaneity with art direction and documentation with artifice.
Fully realized as a book in 1992, Pictures from Home chronicles Sultan’s parents’ pursuit of the American dream, played out in the suburban landscape of Los Angeles and in Palm Desert, California, while simultaneously exploring the complexities of family dynamics and mythmaking. Photographing his parents in mundane moments – reading the paper, watching television, staring into an empty pool – Sultan captures his aging mother and father with humanity and tenderness. Collaborative by nature, the artist combined spontaneous photographs of his parents with those he staged, in addition to interviewing them and recording ruminations of his own. The stills Sultan selectively printed from his family’s home movies reveal an idyllic narrative of the family on vacations, in convertibles or playing in a sundrenched yard.
Intrigued by Sultan’s blending of authenticity with fiction and his mix of the mundane with the absurd, a wide array of publications such as the New York Times, Details, Vanity Fair, Interview and W commissioned him to bring a similar sensibility to their pages. Within the confines of these assignments, Sultan found a way to make work very much his own, imbuing the resulting pictures with a characteristic ambiguity, absurdity and mystery.
Just as his personal work shaped his editorial work, the assignments fed Sultan’s own projects, leading most significantly to the extended series The Valley. On a 1997 assignment for Maxim, Sultan discovered that the adult-film industry frequently rented the suburban tract houses of his childhood neighborhood in order to create their x-rated dramas. Inverting the concept of one’s home as a stage set for self-mythology, The Valley layers fantasy onto the home setting. Photographing on shoots in the homes of dentists, lawyers and accountants, Sultan juxtaposed the naked bodies of actors with the jeans-clad production crew and their metallic light stands, hard-edged camera cases and electrical cables. Sultan writes, “It’s as if one family went on vacation for a few days, leaving everything in the house intact, and another family, an odd assembly of unrelated adults, has temporarily taken up residence... And by photographing this I’m planted squarely in the terrain of my own ambivalence – that rich and fertile field that stretches out between fascination and repulsion, desire and loss. I’m home again.”
on view until April 06, 2019