Alec Soth's Archived Blog

March 18, 2007

March Madness

Filed under: lists — alecsothblog @ 1:05 am

I’m working on my Final Four selection but can’t seem to get past Nixon vs. Mann in the first round. Who is in your Final Four?

January 16, 2007

Joy in Mudville

Filed under: baseball,lists — alecsothblog @ 10:08 pm

For years I’ve been a listener of Sports Talk radio. I don’t watch the games. I don’t care who wins. I just enjoy the mindless but detailed debate. It is a joy to listen to the nerds and statisticians sink their teeth into something entirely meaningless.

I have a craving for a similar kind of discussion in the arts. Awhile back I toyed with an exercise on charting photographers. (I never did figure out the Y axis). Not long afterward I encountered a much more elaborate literature map. I’m waiting for someone to apply a similar algorithm to the visual arts. The closest I’ve seen is Peter Schjeldahl’s appropriation of the ultimate nerd-stat paradigm, the baseball lineup:

Cindy Sherman, third base: middling range but super quickness, Gold Glove, hasn’t missed a ball hit her way in two seasons…disciplined hitter, pulls inside pitch for distance…selfless player, cinch to sac bunt or hit behind runner

Anselm Kiefer, first base: two-ton Teuton, just adequate at position, can be bunted on…fearsome slugger, aggressive, bad-ball hitter, can take anything downtown…slow but intimidating on bases, catcher advised not to block.

Brice Marden, second base: keystone pro, range limited but good jump, unreal pivot…tough out, sometime power…knows the game, team captain.

Frank Stella, starting pitcher: ageless vet, owns the ball…heat diminished but sneaky with awesome pitch assortment, super control, mixes speeds, throws changeup for strike…competitor, will brushback.

Ed Rusha, short relief: submarine delivery…indifferent heat but slider and screwball sparkle, keeps everything low.

General Managers: Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns

Grounds crew: Walter de Maria, Michael Heizer

I’m sorry for turning this into Schjeldahl Week, but I’ve been reading Hyydrogen Jukebox and it is just too good. The only problem with the baseball lineup is that it is dated. (1982, from the essay Clemente to Marden to Kiefer). What would the lineup look like 25 years later? Who would be playing in Mudville – Barney at the bat?

January 6, 2007

Top 10 addendum

Filed under: lists — alecsothblog @ 10:49 pm

While working on my Top 10 list, I realized that I only watched one movie in a theater in 2006. My New Year’s resolution was to make more time for the big screen. Tonight I made my first outing to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006). I doubt I’ll see a better movie this year. Like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (also on my Top 10 list), Children of Men is a masterpiece of bleak and breathless storytelling. It is also equally relevant. “It imagines the unthinkable,” Manohla Dargis wrote in the New York Times, “What if instead of containing Iraq, the world has become Iraq, a universal battleground of military control, security zones, refugee camps and warring tribal identities?”

But for all of the doom and gloom, Children of Men isn’t so much about a slow apocalypse as the slow reawakening of hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel. What Cuarón never makes clear is the nature of this light. Is it a baby? Christianity? Or is it the bright light of Hollywood?

January 2, 2007

10 things I liked in 2006

Filed under: lists — alecsothblog @ 9:32 pm

The Walker Art Center asked me to come up with a top ten list for their blog. I decided to go with half photography, half other stuff:

Lobbyist in Green, by Tim Davis

1) Photography (book): My Life in Politics by Tim Davis
Tim Davis is too smart to be a photographer. But his eye is too good to be anything else. A great book.

2) Photography (exhibition): Peter Hujar at PS1
One of my favorite photographers at one of my favorite places to look at art – does it get any better? Actually, yes. Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces was exhibited across the hall.

Hymenoplasty Cosmetic Surgery, Professional Association, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The hidden patient in this photograph is a 21-year-old Arab woman living in the United States. In order to adhere to cultural and familial expectations regarding her virginity, she had her hymen reconstructed.

3) Photography (editorial): Taryn Simon: New York Times Magazine
Sometimes I come across work that is so good that it makes me downright jealous. This happened with the recent New York Times Magazine portfolio of new images by Taryn Simon from her project, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar

4) Photography (website): Conscientious
Why does an astrophysicist in Pittsburg have the most comprehensive information on new photography? Assuming astrophysics is more demanding than being a Starbucks barista, where does Jöerg Colberg get the time?

When 2nd Lt. James Cathey’s body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac, by Todd Heisler

5) Photography (single picture): Reno Airport by Todd Heisler
Heisler’s picture of a Marine being removed from a commercial plane beneath the gaze of fellow passengers was published in 2005 but not seen by most until 2006 when his project, Final Salute, won the Pulitzer Prize. This remarkable image is perhaps the best portrait of America in 2006 – the year we finally looked out the window (and in the mirror).

Storm, by David Bates

6) Painting: David Bates
In a year when dozens of fine-art photographers exhibited work from Katrina, the best art to come out of the disaster was made by a painter.

7) Radio: The David Johansen Mansion of Fun Show on Sirius Radio
I do a lot of driving. I listen to a lot of radio. The former New York Dolls singer David Johansen is the best D.J ever.

still from Sweet Land, by Ali Selim

8) Film: Sweet Land
Over the last year I only saw one movie in a theater…but it was a really good one. After 16 years of preparation, the Minnesota writer/director Ali Selim shot this film in 24 days. Unafraid of sentimentality with a real-life pace, this is a film to be savored.

9) Music: Solomon Burke, Nashville
Is Burke’s voice a moan, a wail, or a croon? Whichever it is, I understand why he sings in Valley of Tears, “People stand in line just to hear me cry.”

10) Fiction: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This year I listened to two audiobooks by Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006) and No Country for Old Men (2005). In both books McCarthy takes the ‘thriller’ and strips it to the bone. The raw and urgent writing (along with the gravely voice of Tom Stechschulte) drives the listener into an almost subterranean universe. I don’t think I’ll ever get The Road out of my system.

  • See some other excellent Top 10 lists from the Walker here

November 28, 2006


Filed under: artists,lists — alecsothblog @ 11:24 am

I’m a sucker for year-end lists. Meaningless, sure, but they give you something to chew on besides fruitcake. The Online Photographer has a pretty entertaining list of the Ten Best Living Photographers. Number two on their list is James Nachtwey.

Last year I was inspecting some prints at Laumont in New York. On the wall I had a few of my Niagara images when Nachtwey walked in. Because I had a ton of prints to review, I suggested that he use the wall first. Before I had a chance to take down my prints, Nachtwey’s printer pinned up a large 9/11 image right on top of mine. It was revealing to watch my self-indulgent little poems being eclipsed by serious journalism.

Nachtwey’s recent work in Iraq is featured in an excellent digital slideshow here. The download times are long but definitely worth the wait.

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