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  • Video

    ALEX ISRAEL 'Untitled (Flat)', 2013

    Alex Israel’s illusionary pictures are more than what they at first seem. Each of the flats of Israel’s oeuvre is designed by the artist, but produced on the lot of Warner Bros. Motion Pictures. Stamped on the reverse “produced at WB,” these works are like the artist himself: a product of the city built around the production of dreams. Contemporary Art specialist Benjamin Godsill discusses Israel's 'Untitled (Flat)', A dream-like work of iridescent blues and floral pinks.Like a city and a culture built on fantasy, the work appears comfortable and unquestioning of its flawlessness and prepared for its starring role.

  • Provenance

    Almine Rech, Brussels
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Los Angeles is one of the main subjects of my work. Every day is an experience of all of this material, which for me, is an art material. Every day, as I move through this city, I’m experimenting with it. It’s a constant process.”

    ALEX ISRAEL, 2013

    Alex Israel’s vibrant, illusionary pictures are more than what they at first seem. Like Los Angeles, the artist’s home and, one could argue, spiritual and artistic tabula rasa, his works find their depth in the seamlessness of their surface and the artifice they are supported by and which they themselves support. The present lot typifies this practice and its concerns; a “flat,” it is an innocuous background actor, but one in which perfect craft and verisimilitude make it award-worthy. A brilliant slice of sky in neon, smog-affected sunset colors, this body of work grows from, and is integral to, Israel’s multifaceted practice. This form and construction first found expression for the artist as “backgrounds” for objects the artist would rent from cinema prop houses and arrange on pedestals as sculptures in sumptuous and vaguely surreal installations that proved ultimately temporal.

    At the same time, Israel used similar, though slightly larger, examples of these works as part of an intricate stage set for his revolutionary, straight-to-the-internet “talk show,” As It Lays, 2012, presented at Reena Spaulings Gallery in New York. This series of over a dozen episodes was filmed on a stage set uncannily like that of infamous talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael, in which flats, similar to the present lot, formed a semi-circle backdrop to a beige carpeted riser featuring two upholstered and chromed chairs. In his program, the artist plays himself—and, as in most of Los Angeles, it was and was not an act—interviewing prominent movers, shakers, and have-beens who comprise Tinsel Town. From Kato Kaelin and Vidal Sassoon, to Brett Easton Ellis and Mr. Chow, Israel, donning his now trademark sunglasses, asked stoically seemingly non-sensical questions that banally touch upon deep-seated questions of self and being. While some guests appear nonplussed not to be “in” on the joke, it quickly becomes apparent that there is no joke to be “in” on—the truth is all there right on the surface.
    It is what it is.

    As in the present lot, each of the flats of Israel’s oeuvre is designed by the artist, but produced on the lot of Warner Bros. Motion Pictures. Stamped on the reverse “produced at WB,” these works are like the artist himself: a product of the city built around the production of dreams. While the works are themselves dream-like, exhibiting as in the present work iridescent blues and floral pinks, one finds in their surface and production some of the same menace that exists in the city of their creation. There is something so perfect, so contrived and made for the camera about their construction—the beauty, so absolute—that they have a wonderful ability to blot out anything not meeting these criteria. They are surface, yet so much more, and they take on an almost otherworldly modality. This work, in its perfection, calls into question our ability to, as the audience, live up to the glorious possibilities that it extols. Like a city and a culture built on fantasy, the work appears comfortable and unquestioning of its flawlessness and prepared for its starring role.

Ο1

Untitled (Flat)

2013
acrylic on stucco, wood and aluminum frame, ceramic tiles
96 x 60 1/8 x 3 5/8 in. (243.8 x 152.7 x 9.2 cm.)
Stamped "MADE AT WARNER BROS. STUDIOS BURBANK, CA." on the reverse; further signed and dated "Alex Israel '13" on the reverse.

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $581,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM