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Alec Soth, the darling of the photographic community for the last few years, has a show up at Gagosian in Chelsea. Surprisingly, for his first major New York show Soth is showing new work that is very different from the large-format Southern portraits and landscapes that made his name. Niagara is a project done in the towns around Niagara Falls in upstate New York. While these are still pictures of people and landscapes, Soth injects his new show with an undercurrent of sex. Enlarged love letters, which read like grade-school notes or pulp novels, hang next to portraits of naked couples. While it can be inferred that the letters somehow relate to the people it is not entirely clear how. The showstopper is a picture of a generic hotel bed with two towels folded into the shape of swans, which together make the shape of a heart. It stands out from the other pictures in that he seems to have switched modes from neutral observation to making his intentions and presence clear—almost like a Erwin Wurm or Gabriel Orozco photograph. It is hopeful to see an artist who at first seemed so old-fashioned branching out into work like this.

- Asha Schechter [Saturday, January 28th, 2006]

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