Larry W. Cook

Larry W. Cook’s socially critical work includes photography, video, and conceptual art. It examines African American identity, racial relations, fatherhood and masculinity in the African American context, and American society.

Exhibition Fatherhood
Artists Larry W. Cook
Venue Weiss Berlin
All images Courtesy by the artist and Weiss Berlin

“Fatherhood” (2018) is a series of portraits of recently released fathers with their children and deals with one of the most important interpersonal relationships in the context of the prison experience. The theme of fatherhood is also central to “When Dad Comes Home” (2013), where Cook works with archived photos from his family and friends. What possibilities does the absent father have to build up closeness to his children? What does this closeness look like outside the photo?

Based on his experience as a club photographer in and around Washington DC, Cook began working with backdrops used as photo backgrounds at parties, creating an aesthetic unique to the African American experience. In “Urban Landscape” (2018), the backdrops are set in landscapes and can act alone without the people that normally pose in front of them. Escapist motifs such as the Hennessy bottle, cocktails on the beach or fancy cars, which normally stage the background of a carefree night, are brought to the forefront here.

Another important inspiration for Cook is prison photography and his own collection of polaroids taken in prisons. Backdrops are also used in this practice, but with different motifs than in party photography. For “The Visiting Room” (2019) Cook photographed inmates in the visiting room in front of club backdrops.  They take up the typical kneeling pose, supposed to reflect pride and masculinity, but are turned away from the viewer and thus anonymous – a tactic that allows the viewer to put himself in the figure’s position.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication, with contributions by Jasmin Basheer, Makeda Best, Leslie M. Wilson, and Tamar.

The publication is now available for pre-order here.

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