As a member of LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), every few weeks, I check their website to see what new exhibits are coming up. I try to go at least once a month for a wander through my old favorites in the Broad Contemporary Art Building. Usually, there’s a few interesting exhibits to wander through and most often, given my career path, I get excited when a new photography exhibit comes through. (Though, I have to say I CANNOT wait for the Tim Burton exhibit in May.)
Today was no different. An otherwise non-eventful Saturday afternoon, this is exactly when I usually go. I’d seen on the website listing for an exhibit of photographer Larry Fink’s journalistic portraiture. I was intrigued by the description. I’d of course heard of Larry Fink before, and I knew he had a long career snapping portraits and his many times was the only camera allowed inside the legendary Vanity Fair Oscar Parties. His career spans over 40 years and I was thrilled to see the possibilities of what his lens might have captured. So this afternoon, I asked a friend and fellow photographer to join me up there to check it out.
What was billed on the website as an “exhibit” was a huge disappointment. For a man whose work spans 40 years, the portraits included only cover 9 of those years. And to be honest, it looked to me like almost all of the images pulled for this were from the same year and party. And the number of images was ridiculous. I’d say there were about 18 images in total. That was it. Forty years of a career, 9 years of material to pull from and the artist didn’t even take the time to pull 2 dozen images? Who does that?
Though, seeing some of the images in their intended silver gelatin print form, rather than in digital or printed in a book was nice. And the prints were beautifully done – at the least the gelatin prints were. There were also a number of inkjet prints, I assume from digital images, but they looked off – both in colour and contrast. They were a bit green to be honest. Having worked with a photographer who did a large number of inkjet prints for a gallery show all from digital, I know that this is an avoidable issue, so I can only assume either he didn’t have time to double check them or just didn’t care enough to do a proper job on colour correction on his prints.
The only thing about the show that I did enjoy was this one image of Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Kid Rock sitting together at one of the parties. Just the juxtaposition of these three icons of media got my attention.
As for the rest, the only thing that made the images interesting was the subject matter. A few years back, some friends and I were discussing the book project that another photographer we knew was putting together. He was focusing on doing lighting techniques in the book, but the images used as example were all images of celebrities. And the question put forward was “If it wasn’t a celebrity in the photograph, would it STILL be an interesting image?”
For most of the work that I saw yesterday at the Larry Fink exhibit at LACMA, the answer is sadly, No. I felt like we were walking through a hallway of a grand home. It was wall art. For the size of it, for the subject matter and the way it was presented, I’d have to say that this wasn’t an exhibition, it was a vanity piece.