Luke Smalley’s Retrospective just opened at Clamp Art in New York this last week, surveying the late photographer’s work. Many early images of Smalley’s were inspired by yearbooks and fitness manuals. After earning a degree, in sports medicine, Smalley became interested in fine art (while earning money from modeling and working as a personal trainer). Ian Hannett writes:
“He soon created a short film based on male swimmers, which he took unannounced to [the book publisher] Jack Woody sometime in the early 1980s. Woody’s company, Twin Palms Publishers/Twelvetrees Press, then located in Pasadena, had recently printed a monograph for artist Bruce Weber, to which Smalley strongly related and greatly admired. Smalley was a quiet, relaxed individual who was easy to be around, and he and Woody soon struck up a casual friendship. Woody began taking the young artist to various Hollywood parties where he met many celebrities of the day, including people such as Herb Ritts, who also would serve as later inspiration.”
It was around this that Smalley formulated the idea for his series black and white series Gymnasium, which took fifteen years to complete. Four years later came Smalley’s second major series, Exercise at Home, which marked his foray into color and further explored themes of…
“adolescent growing pains acted out under the guise of earnest athleticism.”
Teenagers compete in simple but strange competitions in order to establish their standing within the group. In 2009 came Sunday Drive which was shown at ClampArt in the fall of 2009, but sadly the artist passed away in May of that year and never saw its success realized. The exhibit runs through May 9 at Clamp Art.