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Blush worthy: Larry Clark’s NC-17 exhibit in Paris

Out of respect for the integrity of the Larry Clark oeuvre and the sensibilities of young people, this exhibition is open only to visitors 18 and up” (since when have horny teenagers had sensibilities? give me a break!)

Untitled, 1973

I’ve always been a bit wary of Larry Clark. There was one year in highschool where it seemed like everyday someone was watching Kids in the lounge. Don’t ask me why, perhaps it had something to do with us all being repressed boarding school girls. Anyway, that opening scene when the young couple has unprotected sex has scarred me for life. Not because that is the moment in the film which sets the rampant spread of AIDS in motion, but rather because the guy doesn’t take his socks off! It’s horrifying!

In the spirit of cultural awareness however, I went this afternoon to Larry Clark’s retrospective, “Kiss the Past Hello”, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The space here was utterly lacking in pretension or judgement: just four white rooms lined with chronologically arranged photographs.

Anyone who has ever seen any of Clark’s work knows his big themes: drugs, sex, and suicide. His photographs are often very dark and provocative. Moments of humor manage to shine through however. I mean honestly, you can’t have that many pictures of penises without it being a little funny. It’s as if Clark captured these moments of total wretchedness and then sprinkled some horny satyr-types throughout, just to lighten things up a bit.

One of my favorite photos of his series Teenage Lust is of three young people in a bedroom shooting heroin. It sounds gritty and depressing, and it is. But the first thing you see is not the needle, its the young man’s penis, draped over his thigh like a banana, pointing towards the action. Then again, this playful representation of teenage drug use makes the scene all the more disturbing, and not really that silly after all.

Untitled, (Tulsa) 1971

My absolute favorite photograph has nothing to do with sex or drugs. It’s a picture of a catfish swimming around in a bathtub. That’s it. You have to wonder, what’s he doing in that bathtub? Was he cooked and eaten for dinner after the photo shoot, and if so how was he prepared? Blackened? Beer-battered? Or was he kept as a pet? The possibilities are endless!

Since I can’t find the photograph of the catfish online, here is my second favorite picture. Gotta love the 70s bikini tan lines. The way the woman assertively embraces her man reminds me of Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss, which was pretty shocking itself once upon a time.

Untitled 1972

I must admit that I enjoyed the exhibit and I appreciated its shock-value very much; but it won’t change the way I feel about sex with socks on. I don’t care how bloody cold it is.

Practical Info: The exhibit lasts until January 2nd, 2011 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. For more info see:

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