Comprising 125 original black and white photographs – 54 from Fink’s book The Beats, and 71 from his book The Vanities – this exhibition is on view at the ground floor of the Armani/Silos. Milan. Although both sets of pictures have appeared in international exhibitions and photography festivals, they have never before been shown together, making The Beats and The Vanities a unique opportunity to gain a special insight into this photographer’s idiosyncratic vision.
Giorgio Armani says: ‘I am really pleased to bring Larry Fink’s work to Milan. I find his ability to capture form and line in such a fluid way something I can really relate to as a designer. Fink is a jazz fan, and you can see these images in terms of musical composition – people in flow, surprising us, possessing an unselfconscious sensuality. There is much that a fashion designer recognises here.’
Larry Fink says: ‘I am really pleased that Giorgio Armani has decided to exhibit The Beats and The Vanities together. The pictures have more in common than might at first be obvious: from two different opposing levels of egotism, The Beats and The Vanities live within the same valley. Each set of participants fashions themselves to be on the top of the mountain of contribution. It is great that Armani has recognised this. This is the first time both collections of images will hang in the same space and this is also the first time that the Armani/Silos presents a one-man photography exhibition. Of course, the images were made forty-five years from each other. The Beats were photographed when I was a young romantic, The Vanities when I was – not hardened – but a humanist ironist. Therein, the two works have different aesthetics and moral calculations.”
Larry Fink was born in Brooklyn and grew up in a progressive and politically active family. He cut his teeth as a photographer as part of the late beat generation, when he hooked up at 17 with a group of beats. Living in the basement of the Sullivan Street Playhouse, next door to the famous Village Gate Jazz Club, the soundtrack to his life was provided by live sessions by the likes of John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Charles Mingus.
Part of the beat movement himself, attending protests against the Vietnam War and marching on student campuses, Larry was nevertheless an observer, documenting the times through his medium-format camera. His pictures are a wonderful time capsule. Following his friends’ unconventional lifestyle, including a madcap hitchhiking trip from New York to Mexico, he captures perfectly the sense of romance and rebellion that characterised the underground jazz-fuelled youth movement of the time.
The type of empathy his beat photography displays would later make him, perhaps counter-intuitively, the perfect photographer to capture the circus that is the Hollywood party. A regular editorial contributor to The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, it was the latter publication that recognised that Larry would bring something different to the magazine if let loose among the guests of its glitzy social gatherings. Fink’s visual record of celebrities and their surrounding is not concerned with who’s who, just what’s happening. ‘I really do embrace – or try to embrace – the souls of all people, regardless of their conditions,’ says Fink.
Today, at 76, Larry Fink is rightly recognised as a great talent, and the one-man show at the Armani/Silos follows many others he had at places like New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of Modern Art. The recipient of many awards and two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts, Individual Photography Fellowships, Fink has also been teaching for over fifty years and holds professorial positions at Yale University, Cooper Union and Bard College, where he is now a honorary professor.
The Beats and The Vanities, Photographs by Larry Fink will be on show at the Armani/Silos from April until the end of July 2017.