Vince Aletti Presents Stuff

Aug 22 2011

Vince Aletti is a man with incredible taste. He reviews photography exhibitions for the New Yorker’s Goings on About Town section and writes a regular column about photo books for Photograph. He is a contributing editor at Aperture and writes for Artforum and V. His writing contributions are too many to list in terms of awards and prestigious museum curations, but suffice it to say, the mans respected opinion has launched many books with introductions written for Michael Thompson, Ingar Krauss, Mark Cohen, Kohei Yoshiyuki, Ryan McGinley, and Jed Fielding.

Paddle8 is a forward thinking destination online created to examine, understand, and acquire unique artworks. Essentially, Paddle8 is reinventing the notion of a meeting space for collectors, artists, and gallerists on the web. Their monthly guest-curated exhibitions offer a viewpoint into what is interesting and relevant in the minds of today’s leading cultural voices and re-imagine what is possible for experiencing art online.

For example, Paddle8’s Exhibition #02 (which launched July 27th), was curated by Vince Aletti, and was entitled STUFF: Still Life Photography Curated by Vince Aletti. Fear not, the exhibition runs through September 6th so all our readers are welcome to peruse the virtual hallways hand selected by Mr. Aletti and his elegantly discerning mind. 

(Vince Aletti)

We took a moment to speak to Vince himself who shared with us what a great experience it was working with Paddle8 —- “particularly with Hikari Yokoyama and Andrea Hill” he explains. “They’re sympathetic and smart, especially about supporting the work with solid, engaging background material in the Dossiers. I was impressed and really pleased with the results.”

Vince was kind enough to open up further, taking us back to the roots of his very first love — photography…

(Sidney’s Tomatoes by ALEC SOTH. Image courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery, New York and the artist. © Alec Soth)

Hello Vince. Tell us where you’re born, any background, and your earliest memory of being incredibly moved by a still image… Is there something that sparked your hunger to dedicate your life to critique photography?

I was born in Philadelphia, grew up in its suburbs and then in Fort Lauderdale. Have lived in the East Village since 1968. My father was a serious amateur photographer who built a darkroom in the house and put his framed photographs on the wall. He collected U.S. Camera annuals—large, hardbound books that I pored over. I remember an image that also made an indelible impression on Leni Reifenstahl: George Rodger’s black & white photograph of big, nude Nuba wrestlers, one straddling the other’s shoulders. And, thinking of still life, U.S. Camera was also where I first saw Irving Penn’s great color photograph of a spilled purse, “Theater Accident.”

(Cigarette #37 by IRVING PENN)

For the exhibit STUFF, you have assembled an incredible array of photographers in this exhibition — William Eggleston, Dan Estabrook, Saul Fletcher, McDermott & McGough, Wolfgang Tillmans among others… is there one common denominator vision within this entire body of work?

I wasn’t looking for a common denominator, I was looking for variety, for a broad range of approaches, and for pictures that open up the idea of what a still life can be. I was imagining how they might work in a real space, so I wanted a range of sizes as well. But I think one thing all the work has in common is a kind of elegance—sometimes very conscious, but often casual and unexpected (like Eggleston’s and Ray Mortenson’s pictures of trash).

(Arrangement #13, Blumen by COLLIER SCHORR. Image courtesy of 303 Gallery and the artist)

We hear you birthed a brain trust called “the 8” — a group of art world taste-makers. What is the criteria for which you culled together these great minds to add commentary to this exhibit?

The 8 is Paddle8’s idea, and a way of gathering more idiosyncratic viewpoints. Asked to comment on the exhibition, they provide a jumping-off point for other opinions, but they’re also asked to respond to a few questions designed to tweak out individuality and wit. I chose 8 people—Ruth Ansel, Maurizio Cattelan, Elisabeth Biondi, Wayne Koestenbaum, Andrew Richardson, Melissa Harris, Jon Savage, and Philippe Garner—I knew would have something interesting to say, no matter what they were asked, and again, I was looking for variety and eccentricity.

(Vince Aletti’s Disco Stripes, The Paradise Garage Membership Card)

On top of photography, we understand you had a classic weekly column called “Disco Files” which was published in 2009 by DJ history in the UK. What was the overarching thesis of these “disco files”, and how did you come to follow disco as opposed to other genre’s of music?

I wrote “Disco File,” a weekly column on disco, for the music trade magazine Record World from 1974 to 1978. I can’t claim that they have any overarching thesis—they were written as immediate responses to all the new club records I could get my hands on. They included Top 10 lists from DJ’s around the country who told me about the new records they were playing or looking forward to. I was part of a very busy grapevine of music obsessives, and, as a result, was often the first person to write about new music. I came away from the experience with 13 gold records (most from Donna Summer) and the material for the book that published in 2009 as “The Disco Files.” Before writing about disco, I’d written primarily about black pop music—from Aretha Franklin to the Jackson 5 to Sly & the Family Stone—for Rolling StoneCreem, Funsion, and Crawdaddy. For me, disco was a natural evolution of Motown, Philly International, and funk. After disco’s official passing, I continued to write about dance and soul music, but mostly for the Village Voice, where I became an editor in the mid-80’s and the paper’s Art Editor and photography critic until 2005.

(Note: To read a more in-depth Q&A on the Disco Files, go to


About Paddle8

Co-founders Aditya Julka and Alexander Gilkes came together in 2010 dreaming of empowering a broader audience with new access points to premier artworks. They soon joined forces with Director Hikari Yokoyama and design firm TENDER Creative to further develop the core team and realize their vision. Through the combined efforts of diverse skill sets, the Paddle8 team has created a new model for individuals to engage with contemporary art free of geographical constraints.

About the Exhibit

STUFF: Still Life Photography Curated by Vince Aletti runs from July 27 to September 6, 2011. The next exhibition (which is curated by Zak and Robin Williams — yes, Mr. Robin “Dead Poets Society” Williams) will open on September 21st on the homepage of Paddle 8. Vince’s show will then be archived and will be visible indefinitely.