The de Young museum will showcase Steve Kahn’s “The Hollywood Suites”, a conceptual photographic series depicting Los Angeles’s social hemorrhaging throughout the 1970’s.
Steve Kahn did what artistically inclined individuals tend to do in midst of the societal disintegration; make sense of absurdity through experimental art making. The product of his creative investigations became a directorial essay comprised of staged photography and portraiture, known as The Hollywood Suites.
Kahn began by capturing the taboo through photographing professional bondage models in decrepit motel rooms on Melrose Avenue. If this sounds grimy and like borderline pornography, that’s the exact reaction Kahn intended to impose on his audience. These photographs are meant to explore Los Angeles’s deteriorating culture of dehumanization and self-alienation, although the artist's attention quickly turned from the woman themselves to the rooms in which they resided. Poorly maintained buildings suggest a lack of human presence and the crooked curtains, dilapidated interiors and unhinged doors began to intrigue Kahn. Abandoned rooms sometimes often offer more emotion than any human expression, and Kahn’s endeavor was to use these motels’ physical features to exploit psychological bondage and containment.
The Hollywood Suites includes 58 final gelatin silver prints, Polaroids and image contact sheets to reflect the criticism Kahn imposed on his own work. Visitors of de Young will not only witness the collection’s evolution from bondage photography to haunting urban isolation, but also the extremely meticulous approach to art making.
// The Hollywood Suites comes to the de Young Museum September 29—March 31, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park; deyoung.famsf.org. Hours: Tuesdays—Sundays, 9:30 am—5:15 pm. Photography courtesy of the de Young Museum.
Christopher is a contributing writer located in the East Bay. He is likely to be found in any of San Francisco’s parks with his mutt, Leia, sunglasses on face and book in hand.