Larry Clark

By Hainley, Bruce | Artforum International, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Larry Clark


Hainley, Bruce, Artforum International


Anyone who thought Larry Clark's Kids was a movie concerned with verite or realite needs to brush up on his French. The film may have employed aspects of documentary in trying to capture the look of now, but, as with Clark's photographic work, assemblages, books, and videos, no one thinking clearly could possibly mistake the fllm's style for anything but his hysterical, complicated esthetic. One of Clark's gifts is that his eye is so daring, rapacious, and thoroughly fixated that the boytown he continually contemplates seems to belong to him alone. Like any time period, now has a look and a feel; to get it down on film you need as much wit and esthetic stylization (absence of style, antistyle, is still a style) as you do in a 19th-century weepie or futuristic thriller.

So exactly what is to be made of Clark's color shots of skateboarders, photos that scout the territory and velocity of what would become Kids, as well as other photos contemporaneous with or immediately following the film - one of Clark with Sharon Stone and, is that Cannes in the background? (A number of these photos, or ones like them, are even reproduced in the Grove Press Kids book.) The first thing to be said is that, like Clark's other work, they overflow with the rowdy athleticism and sexuality of boys doing boy things, sometimes alone, but more often within arm's length of other guys - the spunk Clark manages to release into all his shots despite photography's stillness and inviolable silence - in other words, exactly what made Kids a meditation both on masculinity's speed (the wildness of boys in motion) and on what only movies (as opposed to photography) can do. At their best, the photos even manage to scope out new streets for Clark rather than, as one might initially think, retrace familiar byways. Clark knows the shock that only repetition can reveal. Untitled, 1992, nine similar shots of the same blue boy, tongue in cheek, eyes empty or full, mussed hair, thick eyebrows, ticks like a time bomb. Who knows what will come next; who he is and who he will be; who, if anyone, he will take with him? …

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