Today we bring you a review of Alec Soth: Songbook at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. Writing for Art Practical, author Danica Willard Sachs notes that “The project marks a departure from [Soth’s] usual reliance on narrative annotations to explain his images; it’s a more free-flowing, less didactic viewing experience.” This article was originally published on March 26, 2015.
In twenty-one black-and-white pigment prints from the larger photobook Songbook, Alec Soth presents at Fraenkel Gallery a vision of contemporary American community life tinged with melancholy and wry humor. Between 2012 and 2014, Soth played the role of a minor newspaper photographer, traveling the United States to document community meetings, dances, pageants, and festivals for his self-published newspaper The LBM Dispatch(distributed through the website of his independent publishing house, the Little Brown Mushroom) and also while on occasional assignment for the New York Times. Like Robert Frank’s effort The Americans, first published in 1958, Soth’s depiction of American life revels in the space between sincerity and satire. The artist offers little more than a location in each image title, and yet the cumulative result is a feeling of Americanness in photographs that were taken anywhere and everywhere from Kissimmee, Florida, to Redwood City, California.