Les Krims | American, b.1942
Of all the photographers who produced staged or constructed images in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the most controversial was Les Krims. Known for his "documentary fictions," Krims devises sensational tableaus that scrutinize and satirize various aspects of liberal society, addressing topics such as consumerism, feminism, and views of race. Often depicting nude figures in absurd, comical, or deliberately shocking situations, Krims's photographs are a provocation of gentrified taste. Krims was described by photography critic, A.D. Coleman, as "a sardonic documentarian who is blending the snapshot and grotesque traditions into a unique vehicle for psychosocial commentary."
In the mid-1970s, Les Krims had been assigning his students at the State University of New York in Buffalo projects which required fabricating simple tableau, sometimes based on second-generation interpretations of trendy art, which he referred to as “Academic Art.” A phrase Krims suggested a “snarky critic might use to describe the art one could see in faculty art exhibitions at schools across the country.”
In the summer of 1974, while teaching a workshop for Eikoe Hosoe‘s Tokyo School of Photography, Krims became fascinated by the animated cartoons and popular Transformer toys, or robots, that had not yet made their appearance in the United States. The series, Uranium Robots, was the result of two robot suit-building contests assigned by Krims to his students at SUNY, Buffalo. The competition offered “generous cash prices” for fabricating a wearable robot suit. Krims provided the idea, the space in which to photograph, and the conceptual method for making photographs. Each student had to fabricate their interpretation (Cindy Sherman and Ellen Carey were among those students). The entrants wore their respective robot suits and stood in the same corner of the room, an otherworldly space invader trapped in a quotidian classroom. Krims documented the entrants using an 8x10 inch camera, and the resulting vintage contact prints were developed on either Portriga Rapid or Kodalith Ortho paper.
Les Krims received his BFA from Cooper Union in 1964 and his MFA from the Pratt Institute in 1967. In the late 1960s, he began teaching photography at Pratt and the Rochester Institute of Technology and the State University of New York at Buffalo. Krims has an extensive exhibition history, and his photographs are included in many museum collections, including The Hallmark Photographic Collection; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Art Institute of Chicago; Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the Black Dog Collection, San Francisco, among others.