IN THE BACK CORNER OF THE SECOND ROOM of Alec Soth‘s new show at the Walker Art Center, From Here to There, Alec Soth’s America, is a photograph that is hard not to see. It is a fat man and his wife, sitting on a couch together. They are in a kind of embrace. And they are naked in almost every way.
I know how hard this photo is to avoid — perhaps how powerful it is — because I was standing in front of it at the media preview for the exhibition, and I could see the other journalists looking over my shoulder, wanting to see it, but not wanting to be seen seeing it. Their eyes were pulled to it like magnets, as our eyes are always pulled to nakedness. But I don’t think their gazes were drawn only by the sight of the man’s scrotum, or the couple’s cascading flesh, or the small blemishes they have — which we all have, but usually hide away.
The couple is not attractive. They may be in love. They may be bored. They are together, yet somehow they are also are alone. The picture is at once tender and cold, vulnerable and bold. And in this image, I think, is much of the allure at the heart of all of Alec Soth‘s work.