Who is Alex Israel?

Posted to Exhibitions, Kunstformidling on 26.05.2016, 16:30 by Susanne Roald with

These days there are intense work in the museum building next to the Oslo fjord – demolition, carrying, building, drawing and painting – all to create exhibition space for Astrup Fearnley Museet’s summer exhibition with the artist Alex Israel!

But who is Alex Israel? The American artist Alex Israel was born in 1982 in Los Angeles, California. He works freely with a variety of techniques and artistic formats, such as painting, sculpture, installation and video, and has his studio at Warner Bros. in LA, where he takes advantage of the grandiose production potential of the film industry to create his work. The works take form through a variety of media and forms of expression, but have one thing in common, namely the city of Los Angeles.

- Alex Israel is an artist who in recent years has attracted considerable attention in the international art scene, says Therese Möllenhoff, one of the curators of the exhibition.

Gunnar B. Kvaran, Astrup Fearnley Museet’s director and also curator of the exhibition, review his works as a “portrait that confronts the representations and clichés of the city’s history, mixing homage and parody, the codes of the international art world with those of advertising and Hollywood’s factory of quintessential dreams and myths.” That is exactly what we have to look forward to when the exhibition #AlexIsrael opens on June 10th!

Israel’s painterly production includes both his characteristic self-portraits and series of paintings based on stage panels and backdrops from the film industry, as in the Sky Backdrop and Flats paintings. The Sky Backdrop paintings consist of attractive color-graded surfaces that imitate pastel-hued Californian sunsets. The result is an aesthetic that hovers at the borderline between neo-abstraction and a theatrical representation of reality. The Flats paintings are used both as independent, wall-hung works, but also as backgrounds, or backdrops, for other facets of his artistic practice, such as backdrops for the recording of his talk show As It Lays (2012).

Alex Israel's self-portraits have been one of his most recognizable series. The self-portraits come in various color combinations, but have one thing in common; they are all shaped in the artist's characteristic profile with sunglasses, as we see him in the talk show As It Lays.

In his iconic interview show As it Lays, the artist always wearing his trademark sunglasses, interviews Hollywood celebrities, such as Melanie Griffith, Paul Anka and Marilyn Manson. In a profoundly monotonous manner, he asks them questions ranging from the banal to the existential, generating situations that are both ambiguous and revealing, alternating between authenticity and parody.

In addition to his career as an artist, Alex Israel has also established his own brand of sunglasses: Freeway Eyewear. Israel does not regard Freeway as part of his art, but the sunglasses nonetheless infiltrate other aspects of his artistic practice. They appear as props in his first video work, the web-based series Rough Winds (2011). The series appropriates the habitual narrative logic of the TV branch, and its concept of product placement, by having all the characters wear Freeway sunglasses and thus function as advertising for the brand. From commercial product to prop to artwork, the formal element of sunglasses is transformed into monumental sculptural works in the Lens series.

In the upcoming exhibition #AlexIsrael at Astrup Fearnley Museet, the audience will experience all sides of Alex Israel’s artistic profession. The exhibition will present a thorough overview of Israel's diverse oeuvre, with video works Rough Winds and As It Lays, his sculpture and painting series, and extensive site-specific wall paintings and installations.


Would you like to learn more about Alex Israel's web-based series?
Watch Rough Winds.
Watch As It Lays.

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