“Once the Needle Goes In, It Never Comes Out”: LARRY CLARK on Sale in London

From July 1-6th, London’s Simon Lee Gallery is shedding a new light on the photographic legacy of Larry Clark, the artist and director largely responsible for the contemporary image of adolescence.


After a considerable amount of time in the queue outside the gallery, the doors open to a white space in the gallery’s basement. Inside a banged-up crate, Larry Clark’s photographs are piled in neat stacks. The images, shot between 1992 and 2010, largely feature Clark’s extensive family of friends and collaborators, skaters, muses, and kids.

image_00007The photos are classic Clark – skaters on a small town street, palm trees in LA, a girl under the night sky bursting with fireworks in New York, empty basketball ground under flat blue sky, legs, kisses, sneakers, an opium pill, a naked teenage couple. There are recurring narratives: numerous portraits of Tiffany Limos who starred in Ken Park and Jonathan Velasquez from Wassup Rockers, lots of naked girls from Supreme campaign, Clark’s self-portraits, often blurry, yellowish, and dozens of kids, depicted in transition from childhood to puberty.

One of young guys at the sale is particularly desperate. Wearing a bandana and black running shoes, silver earrings, heavy rings on his fingers, he’s torn between two portraits: a smiling kid brushing his dark hair back and a surfer-looking guy in a white T-shirt. “That one looks like a Gap commercial!” someone shouts. Or maybe Gap commercials just look like early Larry Clark these days. When I see the guy outside I ask which one he got. “Both”, he says. “I couldn’t separate them.”


Clark’s career as photography’s outlaw and prophet started in 1971 when he published the now iconic book Tulsa. “When I was 16, I started shooting amphetamine. I shot with my friends every day for three years and then left town, but I’ve gone back through the years. Once the needle goes in, it never comes out,” he wrote in the introduction. In its brutally honest depiction of teenage sex, violence, and drug abuse, Clark captured the black hole of the small Oklahoma town with the tender affection of an insider. Clark’s second book, Teenage Lust, came out in 1983. Completed while addicted to heroin, it featured images of Times Square hustlers, a decade before the dawn of the New York AIDS epidemic.


With the archive sale, Larry Clark is giving the kids at Simon Lee Gallery more than just a huge purchase discount. He’s giving them an unforgettable experience of joy and frustration, at the visual speed of the new generation – look through 500 pictures in 15 minutes, read the images, relate, fall in love, cherish, or reject it, and finally choose one to spend their hundred on. All the while questioning their own choices, hesitating in their attempts to narrow the selection down one by one.


Today, Larry Clark is 71, vegan, and sleeps 4 hours a day. He doesn’t skate anymore, but he still hangs around skate kids (and vice-versa). His latest film, The Smell Of Us, features a gang of young Parisian skaters and is due out this year. In the meantime, he keeps busy filming the second part of his Marfa Girl trilogy in Texas. Tulsa and Teenage Lust are currently on show at Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam. Clark’s legacy is larger than life, and no small source of anxiety for the director. (In an interview before his opening at Foam, Clark expressed his fears of dealing with the back catalog of work he never had the time to deal with). The print sale could be one of the ways to deal both with the fear and the amount of material: outsource the archives to his devoted followers. In introducing his audience to the painful process of editing, he’s exposed himself as an artist like never before, and created a new level intimacy with his audience, all in the mundane form of a 10 x 15 photograph.

The Larry Clark sale continues at London’s Simon Lee Gallery until July 6th, 2014.
Tulsa and Teenage Lust are on show at Foam Amsterdam until September 12th, 2014.


  • Life Exists: Theaster Gates’ Black Image Corporation

    Theaster Gates' “The Black Image Corporation” presents photographs from the holdings of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company, a sprawling archive that shaped “the aesthetic and cultural languages of contemporary African American identity.” Gates approached the project as a celebration and activation of the black image in Milan through photographs of women photographed by Moneta Sleet Jr. and Isaac Sutton – of black entrepreneurship and legacy-making. “Life exists” in the Johnson archive, he says, just as it exists and should be honored in other places of black creativity.More
  • FRIDA ESCOBEDO: The Era of the Starchitect is Over

    Rising Mexican architect Frida Escobedo is relentlessly inquisitive, eschewing stylistic constants in favour of an overriding preoccupation with shifting dynamics. Personal curiosity is the driving force behind her practice, which makes he an outlier in a profession dominated by extroverted personalities keen on making bold assertions. "I think it really is a generational shift," Escobedo says. "The idea of the starchitect making grand gestures with huge commissions is over."More
  • “I live a hope despite my knowing better”: James Baldwin in Conversation With Fritz J. Raddatz (1978)

    Born in Berlin in 1931, editor and writer Fritz J. Raddatz relied on food delivered by African American GIs after the death of his parents. To Baldwin he was an “anti-Nazi German who has the scars to prove it.” Debating his return to the USA after 25 years, Baldwin explores the political climate in America at the end of the 1970s in a conversation at home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.More
  • House as Archive: James Baldwin’s Provençal Home

    For her new book, Magdalena J. Zaborowska visited the house Baldwin occupied from 1971 to 1987 “to expand his biography and explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity”. Here, she narrates her early journeys to Baldwin’s home and proposes a salve for its recent loss: a virtual presentation of Baldwin’s home and effects.More
  • Where are the real investments? Theaster Gates on James Baldwin

    The Chicago-based artist talks to Victoria Camblin about materializing the past, the house as museum, and preserving black legacies. Social and artistic engagement, Gates suggests, may allow the contents and spirit of Baldwin’s home, and others like it, to settle in lived experience.More