Shotgun Reviews

Larry Sultan: Editorial Works at Casemore Kirkeby

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Courtney Trouble reviews Larry Sultan: Editorial Works at Casemore Kirkeby in San Francisco.

Larry Sultan. Paris on my Parents' Bed, 2007; archival pigment print; 30 x 40 inches. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby, San Francisco.

Larry Sultan. Paris on My Parents’ Bed, 2007; archival pigment print; 30 x 40 in. Courtesy of Casemore Kirkeby, San Francisco.

Banality masquerades as sensationalism in the San Fernando Valley, a factory town for the entertainment industry. Having grown up there, Larry Sultan knew this well, and his theories exist around framing the mundane and seeing things before they register with our socialized meanings. Editorial Works, on view at Casemore Kirkeby through June 10, features Sultan’s works that collude with his current exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at Minnesota Street Project. The series shows the spectacle of commercial industry and, ultimately, the art that Sultan brought to his creative commercial endeavors.

The Valley, his collection investigating modern design through pornography production sets, was born in the throes of an assignment for Maxim called “Great Jobs.” [1] It was a small assignment on daily life in porn production, which often utilizes rented mansions in Glendale and Calabasas. After realizing he was shooting four blocks from his high school, he stayed in the region and began shooting the interiors of these mansions, often with the ephemera of porn included as ordinary details. For instance, when Wallpaper Magazine contracted Sultan to shoot a line of modern furniture, he insisted on shooting at the porn studio Vivid Entertainment, located in Studio City. [2] In Vivid Entertainment #2, a box of tissues and a teddy bear threaten a salacious story, but live as still life next to a mirrored table and a white leather couch with a very warped cushion. A warped sense of glamor and a twisted tale are common tropes of commercial photography, but instead of lounging in the sensationalism of sex and success, Sultan’s images fester in the postproduction of the spectacle.

When Sultan was assigned to shoot Paris Hilton, he chose his mother’s home as the location, bringing this New York heiress into his personal story.[3] By bringing her into San Fernando Valley, he included her in its factory-like industrialization and system of sensationalism. The lighting in the room is sparkling and enchanting, basking the bored heiress in Peter Pan and Wendy light.

Her limbs extend forward, bent at elbow and knee, and her head rests on a sore shoulder. Paris scrolls through something on her smartphone and wears a bathrobe, fully cognizant of the process of complex industries of which Hilton and Sultan both take part. Sultan seems to be aware of this unsettledness. He challenges commercial photography by showing how it is made; he knows how to do it, because that’s where he came from. Sultan, like any seasoned Valley employee, knows the creative value of waiting to be sensational, and harnesses the energy that sits in waiting, right before the image is fully ingested.

Larry Sultan: Editorial Works is on display at Casemore Kirkeby until June 10, 2017.


Courtney Trouble is a recent MFA grad from California College of the Arts specializing in photography and queer theory. They also own their own indie porn production company, TROUBLEfilms.

[1] “Larry Sultan.” Casemore Kirkeby. Accessed May 31, 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.