These Days is a gallery you’ve likely never been to in a place you probably never go, the seedy side of downtown Los Angeles. The neighborhood promises little, and the black building with chipped cement staircase doesn’t prepare you for the inviting space that waits upstairs. But in this unlikely setting Stephan and Jodi Zeigler have created a fine space for offbeat art and right now they are showing new work from Scot Sothern. It’s a match made in heaven.
You may remember Scot’s breakthrough appearance in the art world with his show and book Lowlife back in 2010. That year the British Journal of Photography called it “The year’s most controversial photobook.” His pictures of prostitutes and street life were groundbreaking work and brought him a lot of attention. But in our Hollywood way we then typecast him as “the guy that shoots hookers” and that left a lot of his story untold. In the years since he has made and shown lots of new photos and written a couple of novels including the sadly unrecognized Big City but the bad boy identity has kind of stuck.
Cut to now and Scot’s new work Identity. This time Sothern has reworked American civil war ambrotypes, painstakingly hand cutting and mounting tiny photographic prints of modern subjects onto hundred-year-old Ambro’s to make collages that comment on life in America past and present.
This is work that must be experienced. Ambrotypes were made when photographs were precious, so each one came in a protective case. Scot has mounted and framed the cases filled with their new burden of meaning to preserve the vintage physicality, so what you experience is a tiny sculpture with a conceptual art collage at its heart. We are a long way from the prostitutes he used to photograph a few blocks from here.
And while we are talking about the old days there is more to see here. The second half of the show is Family Tree 1975-1980, pictures made shortly after Sothern left the small town where he was raised. Shot on Kodachrome and printed mainly on Cibachrome these are wonderful revealing pictures of working-class small-town American life. The originals are for sale but the images have also been collected in a book with Scot’s sharply insightful stories telling of the people in the pictures on the facing page.
For my money, These Days is a gallery worth visiting and Generations is a show worth seeing. It’s time to brave the ills of downtown, maybe have a meal at the unexpectedly wonderful Nickel Diner on Main St. then walk just a block to tiny Winston St. Find 118 and ring the bell. Treasures await you.
Scot Sothern – Generations
May 14th — June 11th / By appointment
Reading/book signing on Saturday, June 11, 3 to 5pm.
These Days Gallery, Bookstore and Publisher
118 Winston St. Los Angeles, CA, 90013
Scot Sothern – https://www.instagram.com/scotsothern
Andy Romanoff – Pictures at https://andyromanoff.zenfolio.com/
Writing at https://medium.com/stories-ive-been-meaning-to-tell-you
YouTube Channel at YouTube