Alex Israel - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Peres Projects, Berlin

  • Catalogue Essay

    Alex Israel makes images, objects and experiences that balance an elevated, almost debased rush of visual pleasure with a scalpel-like intellectual sharpness. Like Los Angeles, the artist’s home and—in many ways his most fertile medium—his works find their depth in the seamlessness of their surface and the artifices that construct them and which they in turn deconstruct. It is clear that the artist, one of the most important voices of his generation, is able to instrumentalize our star-filled and wide-eyed Hollywood dreams and collective memories within a specific lineage of post-war American painting and conceptual, intellectually driven art making.

    The present lot typifies the artist’s robust project and is perhaps his most elegant and important expression. Untitled (Flat) of 2012 was made on the back lot of Warner Brother’s studio which the artist has co-opted as his own, and was brought into being under Israel’s direction by the highly skilled scenic painters whose craft is jeopardized by Hollywood’s increasing reliance on the exacting, almost too real verisimilitude of digital effects. Here the artist is highlighting not just the skilled craft that goes into the construction of the fantasies that themselves act to build the American dream, but also the ubiquitous nature of the formal language of the “background”. This highly important series is integral to Israel’s multifaceted practice. This form and construction first found expression for the artist as the set for his direct-to-web interview talk show “As It Lay’s”. These flats then became employed by Israel 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, as the objects, which for the duration of the exhibition became sculptures, are returned back into the world of the screen to be rented for use in the background of a telenovella, cell-phone commercial or the like. In a radical way these works serve as a physical, manifest link between the high and the low; more strongly in fact they serve to obliterate any boarder between the two. As such they are an accurate and important reflection of our age of flattened, non-hierarchical interconnection where-in ideologies, images, dreams, stories, and histories are in a constant state of flux and permutation.

    Untitled (Flat), 2012 was the centerpiece of the artist’s breakout presentation at Art Statements in Basel Switzerland in 2012. The largest arch-shaped flat to-date, it was originally presented as the background behind a Wuriltzer Jukebox rented from the prop house of the famed Babelsberg Studios in Berlin. The work’s masterly rendered colors, a smog-kissed sunset-orange palette tipped by robin’s egg blue, present a façade that from afar seems almost too perfect and radiant to be real. These arch-shaped flats were originally inspired in part by the arches of the California missions, and the loggia’s of the Spanish revival homes that pepper the landscape around L.A., most of which were built during Hollywood’s golden age. In viewing these works one is drawn in by the “tricks of the trade” the skilled artisan-like work that went into making what was, at least in the Hollywood conception, a background-player. And again we see the debasing of borders; not just between high and low but between background and foreground. These stunning flats are based on a production process that was conceptualized to make the sorts of backgrounds one would see on a television talk show in the 1980s; the artist argues compellingly that not only are those bits of cultural ephemera just as important as any other but that they have much to tell us about who we are and who and how we got where we are as individuals and a culture.


Untitled (Flat)

acrylic on stucco, wood and aluminum frame
108 x 72 in. (274.3 x 182.9 cm)
Stamped "MADE AT WARNER BROS. STUDIOS BURBANK, CA." on the reverse; further signed and dated "Alex Israel '12" on the reverse.

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $365,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm