Unruly Bodies: Dismantling Larry Clark’s Tulsa is a historically-informed reassessment of the artist Larry Clark’s controversial first book, Tulsa (1971), a set of 50 images depicting a tight circle of friends and drug addicts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, photographed over a span of nine years (1963-71) by one of their number, Clark himself. On first appearing, the exposé was hailed as “a devastating portrait of an American tragedy” and embraced as an artistic watershed of participant observer-oriented personal documentary. Yet in spite of its anthropological connotations, the story Tulsa tells is the product of a tightly constructed, nearly cinematic narrative of descent from teenage experimentation to a drug-fueled haze of chaos, violence, exploitation, and death—a “slippery slope” sequence that tells us what we already want to believe about the self-destructive countercultures of the 1960s.
This exhibition seeks to recover some of the untold counter-stories that live in the interstices between these affectively charged images, by loosening them from Clark’s sequence and opening them to multiple interpretations that address Tulsa’s historical conditions of production and reception.
The exhibition features works from the museum’s permanent collection, and is guest curated by graduate students from the Department of the History of Art and the Public History Program as advised by Susan Laxton, Assistant Professor of the History of Art at UCR.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website