For much of the second half of the past century the concept of American Suburbia was synonymous with the American Dream. Space, a resemblance of nature, and the promise to leave behind poverty, noise, and violence seemed a sure-fire bet towards a cleaner, healthier lifestyle that rewarded upward-mobility for the family. Almost immediately, however, the carefully applied white paint on the picket fence started to bubble and peel, spawning darkly fore-boding cult-movies like “The Stepford Wives” and elegiac novels by Raymond Carver and Philip Roth. Two of Larry Sultan’s most iconic photographic series “Pictures from Home” and “The Valley” occupy this nether space between the eternal sunshine of the spotless lawn and the hallucinogenic horror of American Beauty. “Pictures from Home” unflinchingly chronicles the sunny loneliness of Sultan’s parents in a retirement community near Palm Springs. Tender and melancholic, the carefully staged scenes are both memento mori and an homage to the gift of immortality that photography bestows. A different kind of ambiguity is at play in the series “The Valley”. Here, the peculiar habit of staging pornography movies in rented middle-class homes takes us into the psycho-emotive field of stardom and boredom. Connecting the familiarly mundane, such as family pictures and floral couches with lewd carnal fantasies is, of course, something that the adult-film industry has figured out long ago. Sultan, here, is merely the documentary photographer that lifts the veil from our own intuition. In both series, as well as Sultan’s other distinguished works, the artist is able to coax ambiguity out of a carefully manufactured reality that seems at once absolute and fictitious. That he is able to lead us on shaky ground without an ounce of cynicism speaks entirely to the brilliance of his artistry and proves that there really are two sides of everything: authenticity and subterfuge, the mundane and the bizarre, happiness and despair. At Yancey Richardson through April 6.