Best Museum Experience
Larry Clark’s “Tulsa” series, the Baltimore Museum of Art
Published: September 21, 2011
When we invited City Paper’s regular photographers to drink in the mammoth Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960 we thought one of them was going to talk about Larry Clark’s “Tulsa” series from 1971. Surely some photographer wanted to talk about these images, with their brutally frank depictions of drug use, gunplay, casual sex. Surely somebody had something to say about the pregnant lady tying off and preparing to shoot up, the way some people keep firearms lying about as if they were as much a part of day-to-day life as the sports page, the terrible congruency of a tiny coffin being needed to house a baby’s tiny corpse. And while some of the photographers mentioned the series, nobody wanted to confront it head on. It was only later after visiting the show for the 90th time that the realization hit us. Yes, we go to museums to see the sort of Keatsian truth and beauty that humans are sometimes capable of creating, but we also go to see ourselves reflected in the artist’s defiantly nonjudgmental eye. And Clark’s photo series remains a brazen reminder that sometimes the ordinary madness of everyday American existence is potently ineffable.