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From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America On view at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art September 13, 2014 through January 4, 2015
From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America
On view at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
September 13, 2014 through January 4, 2015
Madison, WI—One of the most compelling voices in contemporary photography, Alec Soth captures offbeat images that uncover narratives of the American experience. From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America, the artist’s first major traveling survey in the United States, will be on view at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art from September 13, 2014 through January 4, 2015. This exhibition, which was organized by the Walker Art Center in Soth’s hometown of Minneapolis, explores 15 years of Soth’s career, from 1995 to 2010. Featuring over 100 photographs, MMoCA’s presentation includes works ranging from the artist’s well-known and celebrated projects to rarely seen photographs dating to his early career, in addition to selections from his Madison-based Lothlorien Series.
Alec Soth’s working process is firmly situated in a tradition established by such photographers as Robert Frank and William Eggleston, whose work has at its heart the American road and whose images capture the individual in an everyday setting. Soth’s is a distinct perspective, however, one in which the act of wandering, the method of embracing serendipity when seeking out his subjects, and the process of telling are as resonant as the photographic record of his remarkable encounters.
Soth treats every potential subject as a lead, allowing each experience with a place or individual to segue to the next through a kind of free-associative research. Working primarily with a cumbersome 8 x 10 field camera, which elicits remarkable detail and color, he spends considerable time setting up his shots, often allowing his portrait subjects to relax and become lost in their own thoughts rather than performing for his lens.
Included in the exhibition is Soth’s breakthrough series, Sleeping by the Mississippi. For this ambitious five-year project, Soth traveled up and down the Mississippi River with an eye towards the beauty found within banal or overlooked settings. Niagara, Soth’s next major American project, focused on the eponymous waterfall which has long stood as a symbol of grandeur and romance. What Soth found in the aging environs of tourist motels are complex stories that form a contemporary mythology of love, its promises and disillusionments. Also featured in the exhibition is Soth’s most recent body of work, entitled Broken Manual, which investigates places people retreat to escape civilization—capturing individuals such as monks, survivalists, hermits, and outlaws. The works create compelling, often dark vignettes that hint at what lies at a hidden America.
Other bodies of work featured in the exhibition include a rarely seen group of Soth’s early black-and-white photographs made in Minnesota; a project presenting a typology of abandoned and repurposed American movie theaters in Texas; a new series focused on women in Louisiana who embrace the Goth lifestyle; and a selection from some more recent series, including Fashion Magazine and The Last Days of W.
Unique to the Madison presentation of From Here to There is the inclusion of Soth’s Lothlorien Series, a group of photographs commissioned by MMoCA for the 2006 exhibition Between the Lakes: Artists Respond to Madison. In this series, Soth focused on the Lothlorien cooperative which occupied a Tudor-Style house on the southern shore of Lake Mendota (prior to a fire that destroyed much of the building in September, 2013). Soth, interested in the legacy of strong liberalism in Madison, explored the life and people of one of Madison’s 23 housing cooperatives, structured to share costs, resources, and provide a forum for social and political activities.
When considered together, these present a portrait of an unexpected America.
About the Artist
Born in 1969 and raised in Minnesota, where he continues to live and work, Alec Soth attended Sarah Lawrence College. He has received fellowships from the McKnight Foundation (1999, 2004) and Jerome Foundation (2001), was the recipient of the 2003 Santa Fe prize for Photography, and was short-listed for the highly prestigious Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. His work is in many private and public collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Walker Art Center; it has been shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including the 2004 Whitney and Sao Paulo Biennials. He is a member of Magnum Photos and is represented in New York by the Gagosian Gallery.
From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America is organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and made possible by generous support from Carol and Judson Bemis, Jr., Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Marilyn and Larry Fields, Linda and Lawrence Perlman, Geri and Dar Reedy, and Frances and Frank Wilkinson.
Generous funding for the Madison presentation of the exhibition has been provided by the David and Paula Kraemer Fund; Sylvia Vaccaro; Ellen Rosner and Paul J. Reckwerdt; Peggy and Tom Pyle; Sara Guyer and Scott Straus; Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S. C.; Gina and Michael Carter; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.
Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. MMoCA is supported through memberships and through generous contributions and grants from individuals, corporations, agencies, and foundations. Important support is also generated through auxiliary group programs; special events; rental of the museum’s lobby, lecture hall, and rooftop garden; and sales through the Museum Store.
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