Alex Israel - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 13, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Peres Projects, Berlin

  • Exhibited

    Turin, Artissima 19, Peres Projects, Mark Flood, Leo Gabin, Alex Israel, David Ostrowski, Marinella Senatore, Brent Wadden and Dan Colen, November 9 - November 11, 2012

  • Catalogue Essay

    “ I've always been interested in the magic of the movies—in the connection between how they manipulate us and how art can manipulate us." Alex Israel, 2013

    Through a seamless and masterful manipulation of color, Alex Israel creates divine paintings that evoke the undeniable magnetism of Hollywood, the dreams that are both born by it and dashed in its oppressive grind, its superficiality, and above all its spellbinding beauty. Untitled, 2011, impeccably conjures this fantastical appeal. Subtle transitions between violet, indigo, and frosty white make the surface of Israel’s work wholly surreal. Hints of pink permeate through veiled, silvery tones. In Untitled, 2011, color has no boundaries. Iridescent shades oscillate freely between one another to create a composition that seems to extend to a dream world beyond the frame. Untitled, 2011, Israel presents the viewer with a sumptuous mirage.

    As in the present lot, each of Israel’s Flats 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 fabrication of dreams. Exhibiting flawless beauty seemingly for its own sake, the present work appears at first blush to be all surface and no substance; however, to assume as much would be to miss, in a sense, the forest for the trees. Made mechanically for the purposes of the camera, yet referring to a fantasy world beyond, Untitled, 2011, is the perfect manifestation of Israel’s Los Angeles. So much of the painting’s essence is wrapped up in the flawlessness of its presentation. To have a single blemish or scuff would be to reveal the artifice of its perfection and the incredible effort undertaken by the production studio to create each work to the artist’s specifications. The superficiality of Israel’s Untitled is a product both of and about his city.

    The arch, loaded with its own fantastical and religious associations, frames Israel’s abstracted, atmospheric composition. Together these elements promise a world of limitless possibility, a vision that is too perfect to be real. Even more immediately, the arch is directly related to Israel’s interest in the Spanish revival architecture pervasive throughout Southern California. As he puts it best, “It’s a style that makes sense here, given the Southern Californian climate, and it’s also a design fantasy: a unique amalgamation of influences that harkens back to other romantic times and far-off places. It’s everywhere, and it’s a look that has become closely associated with the city, and with the Hollywood dream machine.” (A. Israel quoted in T. Chaillou, “Alex Israel in Conversation with Timothee Chaillou: November Issue 7, 2013).

    The Flats series is inspired by cinematography, and refers to the illusory background sets that are ubiquitous in theater and film production. In alluding to this concept of staging, Israel confronts the autonomy of the art object. In his 2011 Property exhibition at Peres Projects in Berlin, Israel paired his Flats with rented props. With Duchampian agency, Israel selected readymade objects to accompany his works, thus “casting” them within an artistic framework. Property was an ongoing study of the relationships between stage and action, background and foreground in construction of aesthetic meaning. Similarly, Israel used the Flats as part of an intricate stage set for his radical, 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 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 the host and his guest. As host, the artist plays “himself” interviewing a number of prominent movers, shakers, and has-beens of Tinsel Town. Israel, dead-panning, asks seemingly inconsequential questions touching upon deep-seeded questions of self and being. A number of guests appear nonplussed not to be “in” on the joke, and yet 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.


Untitled (Flat)

acrylic on stucco, wood, aluminum frame
105 7/8 x 68 1/8 in. (269 x 173 cm)
Signed and dated "Alex Israel '12 and stamped MADE AT WARNER BROS. STUDIOS BURBANK, CA." on the reverse.

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $341,000

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

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm