Two unique views of Tulsa and its citizens — a 1971 portfolio as notorious as it is influential, the other created in 2018 by an acclaimed actor — will open June 1 at Philbrook Downtown, 116 E. M.B. Brady St.
“Larry Clark: Tulsa” and “OK: Jason Lee Photographs” will remain on display through Nov. 10.
Philbrook recently acquired the complete 50-image portfolio of Clark’s 1971 book, which chronicled in unflinching black-and-white images the “outlaw” lives of Clark’s friends and acquaintances in 1960s Tulsa, for whom drugs, sex and violence were simply a part of life.
This will be the first museum showing of Clark’s photographs in Oklahoma.
“Clark’s position as a member of the community he photographed had a profound influence on artists who came after him,” says Sienna Brown, Nancy E. Meinig Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “Approaches to photography and the depiction of communities were never the same after ‘Tulsa.’ ”
Clark’s influence can be seen in contemporary photographers like Nan Goldin and Richard Prince and filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Gus Van Sant, who cite Clark as a visual influence on their films “Taxi Driver,” “Rumble Fish” and “Drugstore Cowboy,” respectively.
“It’s a very stark view of Tulsa,” said Philbrook Director Scott Stulen. “But it’s also very much a snapshot of youth at this particular time. It’s truly one of the most important photographic portfolios out there. These photographs look as fresh today as they did nearly 50 years ago, and they are just as relevant.”
Lee, best-known for his role as the title character of the TV series “My Name is Earl,” became acquainted with Philbrook when museum officials invited him to attend its recent exhibit of photographs by Lusha Nelson.
Lee has pursued photography seriously and began talking with Philbrook officials about doing a show for the museum.
“Jason has spent much of a summer here in Tulsa and the surrounding area,” Stulen said. “He’s a true road photographer — he’ll drive around until he is struck by an image. He doesn’t use any tricks; he shoots on film rather than digital, and the image is what he sees through the viewfinder.”
In a statement on his website, Lee writes, “When I’d set out to start photographing for the project, the idea was to just document Tulsa, but after spending two weeks there at the beginning of June, it became clear to me that it would mean more, and be more fulfilling for me, to document Oklahoma as I’d done Texas for (the exhibit) ‘A Plain View.’ There’s something about roaming new places by car, being on unknown highways and approaching unknown towns, that has a certain allure and excitement to it.”