Like most art photographers who have worked on porn sets, Larry Sultan rarely shoots the action head-on. Most of the fucking takes place somewhere offstage, tantalizingly just out of sight, or it’s half obscured, barely seen, a detail, an aside. But Sultan isn’t being squeamish, just subtle, and besides, his attention is often elsewhere—on the draperies, the vase of fake flowers, the misplaced roll of paper towels, the stagecoach painting, the slant of afternoon light on the pool. This is “The Valley,” the same stretch of SoCal suburban sprawl that Sultan grew up in, the setting for his heartbreaking 1992 family album Pictures From Home, and now an outpost of the adult-film industry. Hearing that houses in his old neighborhood are being rented out for porn shoots, Sultan doesn’t really go home again—he goes through the looking glass. Everything looks perfectly normal on the other side until you notice that tangle of bodies behind the rose bush, or the patio furniture in disarray out by the pool. The family next door has been replaced by a trio of half-dressed actors, temporarily offstage; a woman in curlers and two sleeping men sprawl on the sectional. The show at Janet Borden will whet your appetite for Sultan’s book, The Valley (Scalo). Both dispense with tittering voyeurism to find a kind of provisional domesticity and ad hoc community in wonderland.

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