Clark’s harrowing photo book Tulsa (1971) documents the aimless drug use, violence, and sex activities of Clark’s circle of friends in his hometown. Taken in three protracted series between 1963 and 1971, the Tulsa photographs combine the documentary style and narrative sequencing of a Life magazine photo essay with startling intimacy and emotional intensity. The graphic and controversial subject matter, the seemingly illicit nature of the viewer's engagement, the remarkable low-light photography, and the restrained editorial pacing distinguish the extraordinary new style of subjective documentary that these pictures announced. But more than that, the pictures and the book were an extension of Clark’s life. The book opens with this succinct narrative: “i was born in tulsa oklahoma in 1943. when i was sixteen i started shooting amphetamine. i shot with my friends everyday for three years and then left town but i’ve gone back through the years. once the needle goes in it never comes out. L.C.”
The set of vintage prints in this exhibition are those that were used in the printing of the original edition of the book, which was published by Clark’s friend and fellow photographer Ralph Gibson. The elusive but tightly edited sequence of Tulsa meant that many great photographs were not published; included here are a selection of vintage Tulsa outtakes. Also included are a selection of materials from Clark’s autobiographical punk Picasso (2003) that comprise Tulsa-era photographs, artifacts, and family memorabilia.
This exhibition and its related programs were made possible with support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, the International Center of Photography Exhibitions Committee, the Elaine Dannheisser Foundation, and other individual donors.