Californian artist Larry Sultan enjoyed an illustrious career spanning 35 years, producing a body of work that provided a challenge for the curators of this retrospective. Beginning with college in the 1970s, Sultan’s output moved between conceptual art projects to documentary photography, and he continued to work until his death in 2009. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has prepared the comprehensive show Larry Sultan: Here and Home, which resonates with the artist’s themes of domestic life and family, and a love of storytelling through imagery.
The exhibition is organised into six loose sections representing periods or genres, moving reverse chronologically and starting with his final series Homeland (2006-2009). Sultan lived in the San Francisco Bay area for his whole career, and this collection shot on the edges of suburbia looks at the boundaries between public and private space, where homes and gardens push against the surrounding wilderness. Editorial (1993-2009) is a selection of Sultan’s editorial assignments; he took on over 160 jobs for publications including The New York Times and Vanity Fair, with his commercial and artistic practices influencing each other greatly.
In 1998, Maxim commissioned Sultan to photograph a day in the life of a porn star in his hometown in the San Fernando Valley. This odd mix of domesticity and porn inspired The Valley (1997-2003), highlighting the use of items such as family photographs and decorative objects as components of the films. Domesticity was also a theme in the earlier Pictures From Home (1983-1992), featuring his parents in their home and later their retirement community, and in Swimmers (1978-1982) Sultan dived into the mysterious underwater world of students learning to swim. The earliest series Evidence (1977) is a collaboration between Sultan and artist Mike Mandel, who met as graduate students on a photography program four years earlier, and shows the pair working together on billboards, self-published books and installations.
Larry Sultan: Here and Home is on show now and will continue until 22 March 2015.