Sunday, March 11, 2012

Alec Soth's "Broken Manual"

One of the Chelsea gallery highlights was Alec Soth's Broken Manual at the Sean Kelly Gallery.

Alec Soth, S., Alabama

Vince Aletti offers a synopsis from The New Yorker: "Soth's subject here is elusive: he seeks out people who've gone off the grid, tracking survivalists, drifters, and recluses to their makeshift lairs. When he finds a bearded man in the wilderness, the picture he brings back can suggest surveillance records or mug shots, but other portraits are unexpectedly lovely and and sympathetic."

One was confronted by this installation upon entry. There is one copy of Soth's Broken Manual hidden inside one of the volumes on display. From the gallery press release: "This highly sought-after, signed and numbered edition is placed inside larger found books, the interiors of which have been carved out to create a secret repository for the manual, an action that mimics the concealment of covert material by someone living a double-life, who must hide evidence of their alternative existence from those around them."

Image above from Soth's website.

Alec Soth, 2006

These photographs are eerie. They reminded me of stumbling upon homeless shelters in the woods near the railroad tracks in Bend, Oregon - one senses someone is nearby but has no desire to confront them. There is an element of danger and of being watched in the photographs without men.

Alec Soth, 2006

I loved the combination of black-and-white photographs with Soth's signature color work. The scale has grown exponentially since I saw Sleeping by the Mississippi in Minneapolis in 2008.

Alec Soth, Edel's Hideaway (Summer)

Even though the above image was not in the Chelsea exhibition, it is one of my favorite in the series. It has the same sense of foreboding as Jeff Wall's Crooked Path, 1991 (below).

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