Alex Israel - New Now New York Wednesday, September 28, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum, installation view. Artwork: © Alex Israel.
    “I like the physicality of my city, its surfaces, textures and patina. Scenic painting is meant to be seen through the lens; on a screen. It’s usually in the background and oftentimes it’s blurry, or seen through a window. I like the idea of presenting scenic painting in the flesh, directly to the viewer, inverting its position from cinematic illusion to physical, Hollywood thing.”   —Alex Israel 


    Alex Israel’s celebrated series of Flats are intended to evoke the experience of “Hollywooding,” a term used by the artist to describe the unique character of the city in which he grew up.i Defined by the artist as “flats” rather than paintings, this series of works references the film industry on literal and symbolic levels. The stucco element of the panel recalls the physical construction of film sets, and its painted surface reminds the viewer of luscious California skies. Accompanied by the Maltese Falcon, Israel’s reference to the iconic 1941 film of the same name, the present works honor the everlasting effects Hollywood has had on film on a global scale. By presenting two different works on level visual fields, Israel effectively conveys how unified their stories truly are. First exhibited at the artist’s major retrospective in 2016, titled #AlexIsrael, Untitled (Flat with Niche) and Maltese Falcon showcase the iconic motifs of Israel’s practice. Israel states that Hollywood “has long held a special place in the collective imagination. Because so many of us have grown up watching television and movies that are filmed in L.A., we have an idea of the city that’s tied to televisual and cinematic fantasy.”i  This "fantasy" spans decades of media, plots and props to coalesce in compositional harmony.  


     The sculpture, a replica of the central image of the Maltese Falcon, embodies the concept of film noir. The image of the bird is frequently incorporated into the film, and its possession is a key factor in the plot development. Involving murder, ransoms and detective work, the image of the Maltese Falcon represents a form of mystery that is refreshing to find in Israel’s oeuvre. Dark and dense, the sculpture contrasts starkly with the bright, bubbly stucco of the Flat. The Flats reference Israel’s hometown, taking their form from the architectural elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival style pervasive in Southern California.  Operating across a multitude of meanings, this Flat is the sky element for both the bird sculpture and the Spanish stucco. The idea of the “stage” thereby becomes a particular and discrete reality: both narratives interact with this “sky,” which creates an overall (yet unusual) sense of unison and harmony. The stark contrast between the two works brings the viewer in and invites them to question their shared narrative; imagined yet convincing, Israel’s “fantasy” is a true melting pot of American cinematic culture. 


    i. Alex Israel, quoted in "Alex Israel's Warm And Fun Multimedia Art," Gravel Magazine, December 27, 2021, online.

    • Provenance

      Peres Projects, Berlin
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet, #AlexIsrael, June 10–September 11, 2016, pp. 60, 66–67, 88, 90, 105, 167, 172, back cover (illustrated, pp. 60, 66–67, 88, 90, 105, 172, back cover)
      Shanghai, Fosun Foundation; Chengdu, Fosun Foundation, Alex Israel: Freeway, November 11, 2021–May 15, 2022

    • Literature

      Eric Troncy, ed., Alex Israel: b. 1982, Los Angeles, Dijon, 2017, p. 320

Property From an Important Private Collection


Untitled (Flat with Niche) with Maltese Falcon

signed, stamped with the Warner Bros. Studio, Burbank, CA. stamp and dated "Alex Israel '14" on the reverse of the panel; stamped with the artist's initials, number and date "AI 2013 15/20" on the underside of Maltese Falcon
acrylic on stucco and ceramic tiles on aluminum frame with bronze sculpture
83 7/8 x 54 x 7 1/4 in. (213 x 137.2 x 18.4 cm)
Executed in 2013–2014.

Full Cataloguing

$70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for $75,600

Contact Specialist

Avery Semjen
Head of Sale, New Now
212 940 1207

New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2022