LARRY FINK: THE FORBIDDEN PICTURES
Photographer Larry Fink is a master of social photography and photojournalistic images. On public view for the first time, the exhibition, The Forbidden Pictures is a satire of political leaders, in the artistic tradition of George Grosz, Otto Dix and Max Beckman. “I was shooting fashion, perhaps a compromise for me, but a trivial, jovial, stylish learning theater. Why not use its public accessibility for subversion, satire, association and education?”
The work was to run in The New York Times Magazine on 9/16/01, but the tragic events of 9/11 determined that critical images of the president and his men would not be published. Other magazines declined as well.
It was time – the election was stolen, robbed by middlemen on top. Folks who thought the past was the future because they owned the present. Entitlement didn’t come from being lazy; it came from cunning aggrandizing connivance.
The leader was a twice entitled frat boy with charisma informed by homily and stubborn gotcha comfort.
It was simple! I was shooting fashion, perhaps a compromise for me, but a trivial, jovial, stylish, learning theater. Why not use its public accessibility for subversion, satire, association, and education?
An idea! One of my favorite periods in 20th Century art was Weimar Germany, with Beckmann, Dix, and Grosz all melting down convention in an impassioned visionary way. Grosz was especially political but all of them were hyper-aware of the decadence, the despair, the hysteria, and the lies.
I suggested to the New York Times Magazine (whose rear end is sometimes gifted with fashion spreads) an idea to replicate the period but loosen it, update it, and tell it anew. There were fashion equivalents and certainly moral and historical ones.
Oh the glee! They said yes. I suggested that rather than the corpulent Weimar German types, why not use our current fraudulent leaders, George W. and his cabinet. Oh the glee! They said yes. Political satire and critical acuity are something rarely if ever done in fashion. Yet another coup.
We searched for the cast of dancers, whores, merry makers, and priests. We searched for the lookalikes of our own Mr. G.W. and his consortium. We found it all and went to work. Five paintings chosen from the period and three days shooting them, interpreting them, and creating aesthetic clarity and political bedlam.
The work was to run in the Times on Sunday 9/16/01.
9/11 gave birth to doom. The tragic inevitable moment, the rupture of providence, the rape of the external soul of America. And its aftermath.
Critical images of the president and his men would not be published. In fact, all critical thought was temporarily suspended and the fundamentalist Islamic conspiracy bore the turf for the fundamentalist neoconservative conspiracy which was already in wait for the history which would give it license and muscle. Its muscle is still prominent and will be for some time.
As it became apparent that the presidential team was acting beyond the righteous knee jerk of anti-terrorism, when the public critical spirit was on the rise, I offered the pictures again to the Times. No! The New Yorker. No! Harper’s Magazine. No! The European market I felt sure would publish them. But no. Like their influences, the images were banned, not by decree but by mute fearful compliance to the norm.
Here in the halls of political science of Lehigh University, they speak their eye and tongue. They are free. But the ever-evolving question is, are we?