Alec Soth, Songbook, Fine Art Photographs, at Sean Kelly: A View of the World

A View of the World: Alec Soth, Songbook

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Its refreshing to see a Robert Frank-like view of the (American) world today: “staged” is not a term I think of when seeing Alec Soth, Songbook at Sean Kelly.  Rather, it is a view of a gritty, sad, exuberant now.

A roaming survey of specific places that seem to pinpoint nowhere in particular are revealed here, in large black and white prints. A favorite is the suds-coated dancers, but many images resonate with a solemnity not usually found in much work today, maybe because some contemporary art can veer towards hermetic and self referential.

Venturing out into the world and aiming to capture a sense of a what’s out there can seem as slightly old fashioned and nostalgic as a rotary phone, but I think it’s important to do, both because I like the work produced here by Alec Soth, and because a “getting-back-to-basics” road-trip approach can still mine stunning views, even today (perhaps it’s important to get outside more: we live behind the curtain of the ubiquitous screen, in whatever form).

But this is about photography.  The suds-coated dancers is a stand-out piece (it is prominently displayed at the entrance of the exhibition) for me because of the transformative element of the the image.  Covering the throng in free-form sculpted foam, turning their bodies into a fun but grotesque caricature–like stilled monsters, is in contrast with the floating blobs and blips that hang like beautiful snow around them. Its entrancing to see this duality here.  Other images seem more monastically direct, like the man dancing alone, grinning, arms outstretched, as if waltzing with a ghost from his past.

The people here are alone, either literally or in crowds. The use of flat, sometimes harsh light from the flash seems to heighten this, isolating the figures from the background.  So too do the prints, which seem slightly contrasty and at times are very sharp but seem to retain a bit of “grain” (or noise). The images are loosely framed, aiming to capture the moment, rather than a well crafted composed portrait.  The places seem like anywhere-ville.

In sum, they seem to borrow equally from the history of mid-twentieth century photography, and from the “snap-shot” aesthetic. Does it sing?  The notes are a bit lonely, quirky, off-key but at the same time directly resonate with some punch. See the prints in person if possible at Sean Kelly or at Fraenkel Gallery, or if not, grab Alec Soth’s Songbook in published form for a view of the world.

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Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Alec Soth, Songbook @Sean Kelly

Why It’s Good to Go To Museums for Thirty Minutes and Leave


Standing behind the 12 foot tall oversized flywheel powered by a motorcycle—and feeling the wind pass by my face, along with a sense of danger (what if that thing fell?)—are unusual sensations at a museum.  But I was seeing the appropriately named Chris Burden show, “Extreme Measure,” at the New Museum, a short stroll from my apartment.

I liked the show, pondered a few of the pieces, and left to go home and make dinner.  Total time spent looking at art: 28 minutes.

I prefer to visit museums for short stints, if possible.  Going to Paris for three days and leaving the Louvre after thirty minutes is idiotic, granted.  But if possible, seeing one show at a time or several favorite pieces over a limited occasion is preferable.  Remember: the Met is always pay-what-you-wish; Thursday nights at New Museum and Friday nights are pay-what-you-wish at MoMA and the Guggenheim; the Whitney is free Friday nights. I don’t know if there is a “brief watch” movement in the artworld, or if there should be one, but seeing art in small doses is preferable for a few reasons.

Leave Feeling Satisfied, Wanting More

Exiting a museum should not make you feel like you’ve survived running a daunting gauntlet: “Yes, I made it through all five floors!”  There should be spring left in your step after seeing art, a feeling of satisfaction and room left for reflection.  Seeing work for two or three hours is overwhelming, and makes it impossible to focus on anything but the “big, shinny objects.”  I like to go back a second or even third time to see shows using this method because I always experience something new or can focus on a different piece.

Easier to Ponder, Appreciate

Chris Burden show, “Extreme Measure,” New Museum, Steve Giovinco Goes To Museums for Thirty Minutes and Leave
Chris Burden show, “Extreme Measure,” New Museum, Steve Giovinco Goes To Museums for Thirty Minutes and Leave

Bite-sized museum visits, like seeing “The Big Wheel,” by Chris Burden at the New Museum and seeing a handful of other pieces only, makes it much easier to think about the work.  Someone spent a lot of time making a piece, so I want to allow time to pause, ponder.  “Drive-by” art viewing is like switching the television remote every ten seconds (if you still have a TV, that is).

Art is More Integrated into Life, Not Precious

Chris Burden show, “Extreme Measure,” at the New Museum.  Steve Giovinco Goes To Museums for Thirty Minutes and LeavesMost important, I think, is the notion that art is not a once-a-year (or decade) event.  Rather, its something that you pop into for a little bit and stroll through.  This makes it more integrated into daily life and not an all-exalted occurrence.  Experiencing art in brief but more frequent doses, such as every other week, just makes life better.

 

Contemporary Photography Museum Exhibition with Catherine Opie, Steve Giovinco, Andrea Modica, Ryan McGinley

Catherine Opie, Steve Giovinco, Ryan McGinley, Others in Fine Art Museum Photography and Video Show

Contemporary family life and couples are the subject of a photography exhibition, “The Kids Are Alright,” and include Steve Giovinco’s fine art photographs.

The show runs through January 20, 2013 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Steve Giovinco fine art photography at John Michael Kohler Arts Center

The exhibition uses contemporary photography to examine the shifting nature of family and changing role of, and includes major contemporary fine art photographers and video artists such as Catherine Opie, Steve Giovinco, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Andrea Modica, Ryan McGinley, Tierney Gearon, and others.

The Kids Are Alright

The Kids Are Alright” will be on view at the Arts Center through Jan. 20, 2013. The exhibition then travels to the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, N.C., June 1–August 18, 2013, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass., September 14, 2013–January 5, 2014.

Additional artists represented in  “The Kids Are All Right” are:

Matt Austin (IL), Guy Ben-Ner (Germany), Melonie Bennett (ME), Nina Berman (NY), David Bush (NY), Patty Chang (NY), Goseong Choi (NY), Yolanda Del Amo (NJ), Todd Deutsch (WI), Jenny Drumgoole (PA), Martha Fleming-Ives (NY), Lucas Foglia (CA), LaToya Ruby FrazierTierney GearonAron GentSteve Giovinco (NY), David Hilliard (MA), Justin Kirchoff (ME), Justine Kurland (NY), Deana Lawson (NY), Jocelyn Lee (NY), Carrie Levy (CA), Lisa Lindvay (IL), Julie Mack (NY), Ryan McGinley (NY), Andrea Modica (PA), Catherine Opie, (CA), Josh Quigley (MN), Robert Rainey (ME), Justine Reyes (NY), Kathleen Robbins (SC), Paul Mpagi Sepuya (NY), Betsy Schneider (AZ), Chris Verene (NY), Brett Walker (CA), and Rona Yefman (NY).

Is the Met Museum Engaging in Fraud?

The question has arose from the New York Times: is the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York committing fraud?

Or, more to the point, the article goes on to say, two members of the museum think so.  They suggest that the recommended $25 entrance fee is hardly recommended.  Most visitors, in fact (85% of 360 asked), don’t know that the Met Museum has a “pay-what-you-wish” policy.

This and the Brooklyn Museum–both owned by New York City–are most like the European model where art museums publicly funded: the Tate Modern in London is free and has record attendance.  Washington, DC, is a rare US exception  where most museums there are free too.

At issue is language at the Met and the size of it: “Recommended” is listed in small type at the admission booths.  In the past, I remember it being more prominently displayed, and since it has changed, I can only conclude a purposeful obfuscation to strongly imply that the way to enter the Met is to pay $25.

Fine Art Photography Museum Exhibition with Catherine Opie, Steve Giovinco, Ryan McGinley

 Show Illuminates Shifting Nature of Family and Changing Role of Contemporary Photography, with Catherine Opie, Steve Giovinco, Ryan McGinley, Others

I’m honored that several of my fine art photographs are included in a museum exhibition with Catherine Opie, Ryan McGinleyPatty Chang, David Hilliard, Tierney Gearon, Chris VereneJustine Kurland and others.  “The Kids Are All Right,”opens September 30, 2012 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

The exhibition focuses on the shifting nature of family and changing role of contemporary photography.

Steve Giovinco Included in Fine Art Photography Museum Exhibition, “The Kids Are All Right”

 Illuminates Shifting Nature of Family and Changing Role of Contemporary Photography, with Catherine Opie, Steve Giovinco, Ryan McGinley, Others

Contemporary family life and couples are the subject of Steve Giovinco’s fine art photographs, which are included in a museum exhibition called, “The Kids Are All Right.”

The show opens September 30, 2012 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

The exhibition focuses on the shifting nature of family and changing role of contemporary photography, and includes major contemporary fine art photographers and video artists such as Catherine Opie, Steve Giovinco, Patty Chang, David Hilliard, Ryan McGinley, Tierney Gearon, and others.

Steve Giovinco, who exhibits his photographs world wide and earned his MFA from Yale University, documents intimate relations between couples.  The images are autobiographical but are about how people live as a couple. They are poetic, lyrical and unflinching moments from daily life, and are taken intuitively and spontaneously.

Steve Giovinco says, “I love the idea that no camera–or photographer—seem to be in the same room as the couple; rarely if ever are the images composed using the camera’s viewfinder.  As a result, we experience their life unfolding, witness unguarded moments, and see them just exist.”

The Kids Are All Right” includes nearly 120 works of art created by 38 established and emerging artists who reveal the current notion of family.  This is the first exhibition to examine the intersection of how both family and photography have changed dramatically over the past ten years.

“The photographers and video artists featured in this fascinating and, at times, provocative exhibition demonstrate today’s reality: family is a complicated entanglement of people defined by love more than tradition, convention, the law, or even blood,” said Alison Ferris, John Michael Kohler Arts Center curator.

The Kids Are All Right” will be on view at the Arts Center through Jan. 20, 2013. The exhibition then travels to the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, N.C., June 1–August 18, 2013, and the Addison Gallery of American Art,Andover,Mass., September 14, 2013–January 5, 2014.

Additional artists represented in  “The Kids Are All Right” are:

Matt Austin (IL), Guy Ben-Ner (Germany), Melonie Bennett (ME), Nina Berman (NY), David Bush (NY), Patty Chang (NY), Goseong Choi (NY), Yolanda Del Amo (NJ), Todd Deutsch (WI), Jenny Drumgoole (PA), Martha Fleming-Ives (NY), Lucas Foglia (CA), LaToya Ruby Frazier, Tierney Gearon, Aron Gent, Steve Giovinco (NY), David Hilliard (MA), Justin Kirchoff (ME), Justine Kurland (NY), Deana Lawson (NY), Jocelyn Lee (NY), Carrie Levy (CA), Lisa Lindvay (IL), Julie Mack (NY), Ryan McGinley (NY), Andrea Modica (PA), Catherine Opie, (CA), Josh Quigley (MN), Robert Rainey (ME), Justine Reyes (NY), Kathleen Robbins (SC), Paul Mpagi Sepuya (NY), Betsy Schneider (AZ), Chris Verene (NY), Brett Walker (CA), and Rona Yefman (NY).

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About Steve Giovinco

Steve Giovinco earned his MFA in photography fromYaleUniversityin 1989, and a BA in history fromWashingtonUniversityin 1982.  He received Yaddo artist residency fellowships in 2001, 2002, 2009, and 2010.

His photographs have been exhibited in solo museum shows, including those at: the California Museum of Photography; the Butler Institute of American Art; Smith Collage, Northhampton, Massachusetts; Fotogalerie Wien, Vienna; the VELAN Center, Torino, Italy; and the University of the Arts, Philadelphia.  He has had solo exhibitions at Jim Kempner Fine Art and Dru Arstark Fine Art, both inNew York.

Group exhibitions include: the Brooklyn Museum; the Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati; Gyeongnam Art Museum, South Korea; the Winnipeg Art Gallery, with Jeff Wall, Sam Taylor Wood; Sadler’s Wells, London, with Thomas Joshua Cooper and Richard Billingham; Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands; The Sheldon Art Galleries, Saint Louis; Exit Art, New York; Australian Centre for Photography; and White Columns, curated by Gregory Crewdson.   Besides more than a dozen group gallery shows inNew York, other gallery shows have been inSpain,Chicago, and Miami.

Museums collecting his work have included: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Brooklyn Museum of Art; Yale University Museum of Art; The Butler Institute of Art; The California Museum of Photography; the Winnipeg Art Gallery; and The Lowe Art Museum, Miami, among others.

Reviews have been published in Art in America, Tema Celeste and Zoom magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times. He has self published three books, and his work as been published in many catalogues. He has also participated in many art fairs, and his photographs have been auctioned at Sotheby’s and elsewhere, and have been included in photography festivals such as New York Photo Fest, Look3, and Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

A video about his work was created by David McDonald, as part of the series, “The Mystery of Creativity”.  Steve also invented a hand held large format camera.

New Director Lisa Melandri for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Its been more than several months since Contemporary Art Museum St Louis’ director Paul Ha departed for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Mass.

The Museum’s new director is Lisa Melandri, where she served 11 years as deputy director at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

As quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch online site St Louis Today, “I want this to be a space where, ‘Not only I can get the information I want and see the debate, but I can also sit on the floor and have my glass of wine,’” said Melandri. “I want everyone to think of this place not as a rarefied, uninviting museum but a place that really is their living room.”