Trouble Spots: Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel / Statement + History
Original Statement for Trouble Spots / 1989
Trouble Spots: Arizona / 1989
Trouble Spots: Japan / 1989
Trouble Spots: Nicaragua / 1989
Polaroids from the making of Trouble Spots / 1989
Trouble Spots: Russia / 1989
Trouble Spots: White Corn Meal / 1989
For a ten day residency at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, we brought with us a fifties book of religious imagery, Your Bible and You. Inside were all these beaming faces looking heavenward. Russia, a typeface as seen by Joe McCarthy; is it the socialist worker’s paradise? A fifties rat-hole Stalin gulag? An eighties communism with a human face? We brought Russia to Arizona and found Japan in the same book. A white robed arm pulls back the curtains to reveal to an American audience a yellow glow – or is it an immense power – or fear itself? At this point we realized we were in “Trouble Spots” and that theme keyed us to look for more. An oriental Nicaragua script red splattered over the Viet Nam napalm atrocity photo by Nick Ut. Arizona? A tourist-retirement-leisure billboard that beckons with empty enticements: over an Arizona map float Polaroid snaps – an exotic bird, a metallic fish and a hand holding pliers – fixing things in place, bending, forcing, adjusting and squeezing. White Corn Meal is really just another Arizona trouble spot: the contemplative man, a dancing Indian, a hand holding a box of “White Corn Meal.” The image is a mirror on the Native American’s psychic dilemna: In whose ceremony am I dancing? It’s just another Arizona Highways tourist spread processed for the white consumption: White Corn Meal.
Japan and White Corn Meal have both been exhibited on billboards in Los Angeles and Oakland respectively.
Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan, October 29, 1989
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art