Quoting wikipedia’s definition of a peephole, “in a door, a peephole allows people inside the security of seeing outside without opening the door”. Larry Clark’s work could not be described in a more felicitous way. The 71 year old visual artist, famous for his photography projects “Tulsa”, “Teenage Lust” and the film Kids (1995), was one of the first artists to bring to light the well camouflaged teenage angst of the American suburbs back in the ’60s. Sexed up teens, drug use and other activities which would easily fall under today’s psychological scope of self-obliteration are the main topics presented. The fact that Clark’s projects are fragments of an honest autobiography, illuminates the images with an essence of striking innocence. Teens in their early twenties shooting amphetamine and young bodies engaged in sexual activities are portrayed as naive teenage rituals, endless quests to learn and conquer the self.
Clark does not attempt to confute the “The Youth is doomed” notion but rather unveil stories of socially demonized context without using filters and ornamental additions to the produced imagery. In this almost mesmerizing simplicity, his portraits manage to shift between roles: from sober to wrecked, from innocuous figures to dark persona non grata. However, his visual sincerity inevitably reveals the cracks of the American Dream as the latter was promoted in the ’60s. The sexed up teens, the heroin addicts, the amphetamine shots, the excessive gun use were not elements of a deep buried and long forgotten underground culture. They were behind next door and consequently, an integral part of the society which, at that point, denied their very existence. Even though some might argue that imagery of such nature is not provoking (enough) nowadays, Larry Clark’s work never seizes to puzzle and amaze the audience, making it a positively brilliant piece of art.