This exhibition, on view at David Zwirner New York, presents photographs from Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hustlers series (1990-1992). Taken just over twenty years ago in Los Angeles in the vicinity of Santa Monica Boulevard, it features male prostitutes posing for the camera for a fee loosely equivalent to what they would charge for their sexual services.
DiCorcia paid the subjects with grant money awarded to him by the National Endowment for the Arts, a bold gesture during the controversial years that witnessed censorship of NEA-supported exhibitions by Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, and other artists.
In 1993, twenty-one photographs were exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, marking diCorcia’s first museum solo exhibition. The show, entitled Strangers, was later accompanied by a museum publication. Two decades later, the exhibition at David Zwirner presents thirty-six photographs from the series, including twelve works newly produced and shown for the first time, and coincides with the publication Hustlers (steidldangin). Created by Pascal Dangin in collaboration with the artist, this large-scale publication presents the series in its entirety.
Hustlers marks the beginning of diCorcia’s engagement with street photography. Many of his works appear to depict random events in public settings, yet rarely involve chance. For this project, each composition was carefully arranged before nearby hustlers were approached, and the result is a series of loaded narratives that revolve around a tension between the subject’s unique presence in front of the camera and the artist’s predetermined idea for the shoot. Depicted in a variety of settings including vacant lots, fast food chains, bus stops, and motel rooms, the hustlers are identified in the titles of the photographs by their name, age, place of birth, and payment received for posing for the camera.
Also on view, and shown for the first time in the United States, is a room-sized installation composed of three synchronized single-channel projections entitled Best Seen, Not Heard (2012), which presents photographs of the hustlers on a large screen flanked by the opening and closing credits of old porn movies, dating from the 1920s to the 1950s.