Press Office Exhibition

SFMOMA Presents Retrospective of California Photographer Larry Sultan in New Pritzker Center for Photography

Museum Celebrates First Major Museum Exhibition for Conceptual Artist Mike Mandel

Released: January 24, 2017 · Download (366.6 KB PDF)

Larry Sultan, My Mother Posing for Me, from the series Pictures From Home, 1984; © the Estate of Larry Sultan; photo: courtesy the Estate of Larry Sultan

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (January 24, 2017) — The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents two photography exhibitions this spring that highlight a pair of artists with different visions and a shared past — Larry Sultan: Here and Home, the first retrospective to examine the work and career of California photographer Larry Sultan (1946–2009), and Mike Mandel: Good 70s, which looks back on the early work of Sultan’s frequent collaborator and fellow San Francisco Art Institute classmate, conceptual artist and photographer Mike Mandel (b. 1950).

Larry Sultan: Here and Home

April 15 through July 23, 2017

On view from April 15 through July 23, 2017, Here and Home explores Sultan's 35-year career, from his early collaborative projects of the 1970s to his own documentary-style photographs. These solo projects explore themes of home and family, as well as the construction of identity, façade and storytelling. Frequently photographing domestic life and suburban settings, Sultan examines reality, fantasy, longing and displacement throughout his work.

“As an artist, Larry Sultan was one of the great thinkers of photography in all of its facets,” said Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “He had the unique power and insight to transform certain forms of functional photography into art.”

“Sultan’s work is a key part of the SFMOMA collection of photography made in California,” said Sandra S. Phillips, exhibition curator and curator emerita of photography at SFMOMA. “In light of Sultan’s more than 30-year teaching career in the Bay Area, and his close relationship with SFMOMA, Sultan’s work will truly be coming home as the touring exhibition Here and Home concludes in San Francisco.”

Five major bodies of work comprise this presentation, including:

  • Evidence (1975–77), made collaboratively with Mike Mandel, comprises found pictures from archives of research institutions and corporations sequenced evocatively. These were among the first photographic works to explore appropriation, authorship and the relationship between context and meaning.
  • Swimmers (1978–82), vibrant pictures taken underwater of people learning to swim, revealing a sensual and mysterious floating world.
  • Pictures from Home (1983–92), a personal examination of his parents’ life in the suburbs of Los Angeles and in their retirement community in Palm Desert, California. These photographs reflect the artist’s fascination with storytelling and the narratives that are communicated through text and image.
  • The Valley (1997–2003), a body of work documenting the activity of the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley, where suburban homes are rented for film shoots. Sultan’s photographs highlight domestic elements peripheral to the filming but central to family and home.
  • Homeland (2006–09), photographed in suburban areas of Northern California, the final series that Sultan made examines the spaces between private and public. By posing day laborers hired to enact familial, everyday rituals within these landscapes, Sultan locates ceremony in the ordinary.

In total, the exhibition includes more than 200 photographs, a billboard, a film and “Study Hall,” a room designed to present Sultan’s exploratory process as artist and teacher. The show is organized in approximate chronological order, grouped by distinct projects. It begins with Evidence, the artist’s collaboration with Mandel, and concludes with the Homeland series.

About Larry Sultan

Raised in the San Fernando Valley, Sultan (1946–2009) moved to Northern California in the early 1970s but continued to draw inspiration from the architecture, atmosphere and attitude of the Southern California of his youth. A lifelong educator, Sultan taught photography at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) for 10 years (1978–88) and the California College of the Arts (CCA) for 20 years (1989–2009), where he served as a Distinguished Professor of Photography. His work has been exhibited and published widely and is included in the collection of the Tate Modern, the Stedelijk Museum, Fotomuseum Winterthur, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum and SFMOMA, where he was also recognized with the Bay Area Treasure Award in 2005.

Larry Sultan: Here and Home is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in association with DelMonico Books/Prestel in 2014, that features essays by Philip Gefter, Rebecca Morse and Sandra S. Phillips.


Artwork image, Mike Mandel photograph

Mike Mandel, Untitled, from the series Myself: Timed Exposures, 1971; gelatin silver print; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel: Good 70s

May 20 through August 20, 2017

Opening one month after Larry Sultan: Here and Home is the first major museum exhibition of conceptual artist and frequent Sultan collaborator Mike Mandel. On view from May 20 through August 20, 2017, Good 70s presents nearly 200 objects including photographs, books and a film made during the 1970s, a vibrant decade in the artist’s dynamic career.

“We are so pleased to show Mandel’s brilliantly eccentric work from the period when he and Larry Sultan were good friends, and great at challenging each other,” said Sandra S. Phillips, exhibition curator and curator emerita of photography at SFMOMA.

Native to Southern California, Mandel became engaged with photography while a student at the San Fernando Valley State College in the 1960s. He was deeply interested in the work of Ed Ruscha, as well as pictures by artists such as Robert Cumming and Robert Heinecken. In 1971, Mandel produced his first work, a self-published photography book called Myself: Timed Exposures, where he inserted himself into some of the most unlikely but entirely commonplace situations.

In addition to the Myself series, Good 70s features work from eight other series including:

  • People in Cars (1970–73), photographs made of unsuspecting car passengers at a busy San Fernando Valley intersection.
  • Mrs. Kilpatric (1974), endearing photographs of his suburban neighbor in Santa Cruz.
  • Motels (1974), in which he extended the style of promotional motel postcards to large color photographs of motel interiors, pools and architecture.
  • Seven Never Before Published Portraits of Edward Weston (1974), a conceptual book of letters and responses to questionnaires sent to various men named Edward Weston, along with photographs.
  • Boardwalk (1974), photographs of beach culture along the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
  • Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards (1975), for which Mandel traveled around the country, documenting fellow photographers such as Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham as baseball players.
  • Prelude to Making Good Time (1979), a series of timed exposures in color that the artist created by attaching lights to the arms and legs of San Francisco Giants players. These initial experiments contributed to Mandel’s artist’s book Making Good Time (1989).
  • San Francisco Giants: An Oral History (1979), Giants ephemera and photographs compiled while the artist was producing a book of interviews made about both former and contemporary San Francisco Giants players from 1958–78.

About Mike Mandel

Born in Southern California in 1950, Mike Mandel is a conceptual artist who has engaged primarily with photography since the early 1970s. Operating mostly in California, Mandel creates work that refers to vernacular picture making and is usually enigmatic and funny. Mandel’s projects have ranged from Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards (1975) to more recent large-scale public mosaics.

Mike Mandel: Good 70s is accompanied by a boxed publication titled Good 70s. Published in a limited edition of 1,000 by D.A.P. and J & L Books in 2015, it contains facsimiles of Mandel's original publications, long out of print, along with related ephemera, including fictional letters by Sandra S. Phillips. A limited amount of publications will be available in the SFMOMA Museum Store.

SFMOMA’s Commitment to Photography

SFMOMA has been collecting and exhibiting photography since its founding in 1935 and was one of the first American art museums to do so. An independent department was established under the direction of Van Deren Coke in 1980. Under the leadership of curator emerita Sandra S. Phillips, who joined SFMOMA in 1987, the collection has grown exponentially in size and quality, and the program, based on a philosophy of collecting and interpreting the photographic medium in all its richness and complexity, has earned an international reputation. In May 2016, SFMOMA opened a transformed and expanded museum, including the new Pritzker Center for Photography comprising 15,000 square feet, making it the largest gallery, research and interpretive space permanently dedicated to photography of any U.S. art museum. Clément Chéroux joined the department as senior curator of photography in early January 2017.

Today the photography collection numbers more than 17,000 objects, and is the largest collection at the museum. Its strengths include outstanding examples of work by West Coast modernist masters such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and their counterparts on the East Coast, most notably Alfred Stieglitz and Charles Sheeler. A small but important group of European modernist works by Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray, among others, represents another highlight of this period. The collection also demonstrates a deep commitment to the work of major 20th- and 21st-century figures, including Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Lewis Baltz, Rineke Dijkstra, William Eggleston and Larry Sultan.

SFMOMA is particularly renowned for its thematic exhibitions, presenting photography as a vital modern visual language. This strong interest in photography’s social and cultural importance and this pioneering commitment to examining the medium’s distinguishing — and changing — characteristics continues to grow in relevance, as newer generations and evolving technologies challenge the very definition of photography as never before.

Exhibition Organization and Sponsorship

Larry Sultan: Here and Home is organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Major support for this exhibition at SFMOMA is provided by Bottega Veneta. Generous support is provided by Nancy and Joachim Bechtle, Nion McEvoy and Wes and Kate Mitchell.