Larry Fink SK Josefsberg Studio
Through April 13
New York photographer Larry Fink is very much a photographer's photographer--meaning that during his lengthy career, he has maintained a commitment to creating strong prints. Fink relies on the usual aspects of image making, like composition and contrast. Yet he goes beyond the notion of the "beautiful print" by way of irony and humor intrinsic to his subjects. His shooting style is straightforward, placing him in the "snapshot aesthetic" school of photography which includes the likes of Diane Arbus and Robert Frank. Fink has pointed his camera at a varied cast of individuals, and the exhibit at SKJ reflects this range of interests. As Fink is one of the best and the brightest of contemporary photography, this exhibit is a rich visual treat.
Within the 55 black & white prints, there is a series of images that chronicle generations of NY nightlife, starring an impressive cast of beautiful people. One of the most compelling is "Elaine's NYC, 1999," an image which focuses on a round table of highfalutin folks, enjoying an army of bourbon soldiers. The drunken socialites are exquisitely vogue and appear forever young, with one significant exception. Staring straight into the camera is the venerable writer George Plimpton. His deadpan expression clues us into his almost certain boredom and detachment from his associates, who are all significantly younger and prettier than he.
Fink also spent energy documenting the more average American. Within these works Fink's wit comes through without a heavy-hand. A lovely example is the work entitled, "Oslin's Graduation Party, 1977." Here Fink displays the glory of American youth: Two teenage couples take over a basement couch for a make-out session. In the foreground, a large metal ashtray holds a nasty cluster of cigarette butts. Each teen is somewhat overweight, adding a gluttonous tone to the scene. Highlighting their debauchery is a partially revealed velvet painting or tapestry hanging above the couch. It depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence, providing a fitting, allegorical backdrop for the teenager's festivities.
While one would be hard-pressed to choose favorites from the exhibit, the half-dozen or so images from Fink's lush "Boxing" series are most exquisite and moving (example above). In one print, dramatic lighting casts angular shadows across the bust of a weathered fighter. His muscular head and neck emerge from a murky darkness, sweat beads glistening on his graying hair and wrinkled face. He looks despondently off to the side, though his eyes reveal a sweetness that doesn't gel with a prizefighter persona. In contrast, another print from the series acts as a more traditional portrait of the sport. Again, Fink zeros in on the head of the athlete, though this boxer partially hides his face. The oversized hood of his satin robe veils his eyes. His head is turned away from the camera, and his jaw line is clenched in determination. Against the background of a dark club, this fighter emanates a distinctively dark presence, a weighty symbol of the blood sport.