Larry Fink: Primal Empathy

Larry Fink, First Communion, Bronx, NY, 1961, from the series "Making Out 1957-1
Click images for larger view
On View Oct 19, 2018 - Mar 10, 2019
Exhibition Location: Museum

Dewey Family Gallery

Photographer Larry Fink (b. 1941) creates intimate, nuanced images of human interaction. Caught in the light of his camera’s flash, his subjects are absorbed in sensual connection, unspoken familiarity, and comic revelry. Drawn from deCordova’s permanent collection with loans from the artist, this exhibition focuses on empathy in Fink’s work. Whether photographing members of elite urban society or rural farmers, empathy drives his curiosity about our shared humanity and shapes his decisions for lighting, framing, and positioning his subjects.

Fink states that “empathy isn't necessarily only about goodness or about, ‘Oh, I empathize with you’ as in sorrow, or something sentimental. Empathy, in my way of thinking about it, is more primal: it's an animality informed by complex consciousness. It could involve any emotion." This exhibition explores Fink’s critical compassion across projects that span his extensive career, including his best-known project Social Graces, his surprisingly tender images of boxers, and close studies of flora and fauna around his Pennsylvania farm. Also on view is a selection of rarely seen photographs of public protests, past and present. Shown together, these works affirm Fink’s lifelong quest for direct and personally felt experiences with those around him.

Organized by Sarah Montross, Curator, with Scout Hutchinson, Curatorial Assistant.

Press Release

Media Sponsor:

Art New England magazine logo


Larry Fink (b. 1941, lives in Easton, PA) has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1979) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1997), among other major institutions. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships (1976, 1979) and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1978, 1976), and was the recipient of the International Center of Photography’s 2015 Infinity Award for Art. His photographs have been published in Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, and he has published several books. Fink has taught for over forty years, most recently as a tenured professor at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York.

Member Preview Afternoon

Thursday, October 18, 12–2 pm
Before the fall exhibitions open to the public, deCordova members are invited for exclusive preview hours of Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism and Larry Fink: Primal Empathy. Get the first look into the galleries and join in a special discussion with deCordova Curator Sarah Montross.

Artist Talk: Larry Fink

Wednesday, December 12, 6:30–7:30 pm 
Acclaimed artist Larry Fink, whose photographs are on view at deCordova in Larry Fink: Primal Empathy, will discuss his approach to photography and his decades-long interest in empathy.

Jazz Night at deCordova

Friday, February 1, 6–8:30 pm 
Join us for a night of cool tunes, classic cocktails, and inspired art! Enjoy a drink and listen to a live jazz performance by the Patrick McGee Quintet while you explore the iconic black-and-white photographs in Larry Fink: Primal Empathy. As a special treat, Larry Fink himself will play harmonica with the band! When you're feeling creative, have fun with related art-making activities for all ages.