Monday, December 22, 2008

Alec Soth - "The Last Days of W."

Buffalo, New York. 2004

For my last post before I begin my second annual Top Ten countdown, it seems extremely apt to show a selection of pictures by Alec Soth that are currently on exhibition at Haunch of Venison gallery in Zurich. (Thank you Maegan for uncovering these.) Soth has become the photographer who I think most has his finger on the pulse of our times both in terms of his aesthetic and his content so it is not surprising that the show is titled "The Last Days of W."

I had wanted to include Soth in my current "Sander's Children" show, but there wasn't an image available for loan that I felt was one of his best or was appropriate to the scale of the show (most of Soth's prints are very large and I felt would have overwhelmed the installation). However, if I had seen the photograph "Kayla, Martinsville, Virginia" pictured below, I would have tried very hard to get a print for the show. As there is now quite a bit of interest in my doing a book based on the show, however, there should be plenty of opportunity to include many images I was not able to include.

Soth's Zurich show is titled "The Last Days of W." and here is what the press release has to say:

Acclaimed American photographer Alec Soth (b. 1969, Minneapolis) presents an incisive pictorial statement about the final days of President George Bush's administration for his first exhibition with Haunch of Venison Z├╝rich. Entitled 'The Last Days of W.', the exhibition features photographs that have been taken in North America over the last decade and which, in the artist's words, represent 'a panoramic look at a country exhausted by its catastrophic leadership.'

Opening shortly after the much-anticipated US election, 'The Last Days of W.' critiques the devastating impact of George Bush's presidency on the American people. While it includes some portraits, the exhibition will focus predominantly on landscapes, taking a broader look at the social crisis and urban decay that has been Bush's legacy. All the images have been made during Soth's extensive travels around the United States, and picture many different milieus: West Point, Texas, Detroit, California, Alaska, West Virginia and the artist's home in Minnesota.

Of the twenty odd photographs, a number are entirely new, some have been taken from past series such as 'Sleeping by the Mississippi' or NIAGARA, and others derive from assignments that Soth has undertaken for various print media. The selection will reflect the scope of the stories that have captured Soth's imagination during President Bush's two terms in office: stories about mothers of Marines serving in Iraq, religion in the American workplace, the biggest landfill in America and the mortgage crisis in Stockton, California. Brought together for the first time, they constitute a 'celebration/requiem for the Bush era'. Rather than the myth of the American Dream, these images evoke the decline of the American Empire.

A newspaper, conceived and published by Soth, accompanies the photographs in the show and complements their socio-political commentary. Within the critique, however, a certain weariness persists, with the artist acknowledging the ultimate futility of resistance in the face of gross injustices and abuses of power. Soth concludes: 'In assembling this collection of pictures I've made over the last eight years, I guess I'm not really trying to accomplish much at all. But as President Bush once said, "One of the great things about books is, sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."

Josh, Joelton, Tennessee, 2004

Kayla, Martinsville, Virginia, 2008

Watertown, South Dakota, 2008

Michael and Dominique, Detroit, Michigan, 2008

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