Alex Israel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Sunday, November 8, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Peres Projects, Los Angeles
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I still find beauty in clichés, and I still find hope in the American Dream.” Alex Israel

    Born and raised in Los Angeles, Israel has said that “Los Angeles is one of the main subjects of my work. Every day is an experience of all this material, which for me, is an art material. It’s a constant process.” Working across a number of different media, Israel finds inspiration not only from the surrounding landscape, but also from the pseudo-alternate reality engendered by Hollywood.

    Whether for Israel’s video series As it Lays, 2011, his sculpture and installation Property, 2011 or his series Flats, 2011 – the movie studio art department is the defining space for both the emotional and physical creation of his work. The obfuscation between reality and fiction defines one of the most intriguing qualities of Hollywood. As Israel notes, “Los Angeles is the place where the American Dream comes to life. We witness this on television, season after season. The American Dream is a powerful and moving thing. So much of the imagery that illustrates this dream is pure L.A. cliché. These clichés carry so much symbolic weight and meaning; they activate people's imaginations and inspire them to find a better way, and a better life.”

    Untitled (Flat), 2011 is a seminal example from the Flat series – from the sunburned hues of red, pink, orange and blue evoking picturesque West Coast sunsets, to the shapes of the works, which reference Spanish revival-style window and door frames used in Southern Californian architecture, to the choice of stucco as a base medium. Israel activates our own imagination with the deft blending of color, form and medium, to create both a stand-alone work of art, and also a “set” backdrop for his multi-media oeuvre.

    Since the beginning of movie making, Flats - a technical term for stage and TV set backdrops- were traditionally hand painted. However, with the digitalization of the modern world, the artist’s hand has been taken out of the picture. Large scale printers have replaced artists’ easels in the background of the big studio lots. When Israel first began visiting the Warner Bros. scenic department, he met set painter Andrew Pike and they fast became friends and collaborators. Just as Andy Warhol had works painted in his Factory, Alex Israel has his Flats made at a movie studio. Nostalgia for the past, and a Warholian distance from mark making, beautifully and meaningfully marry to form an aesthetic that serves as a current commentary on Hollywood and the American dream. Standing in front of Untitled (Flat), the viewer instinctively feels the nebulous relationship between artist and maker, director and movie star, and everyday life versus the construct of the entertainment industry.


Untitled (Flat)

acrylic on stucco panel
96 x 60 in. (243.8 x 152.4 cm)
Stamped "MADE AT WARNER BROS. STUDIOS BURBANK, CA." on the reverse; further signed and dated "Alex Israel '11" on the reverse.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $269,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 8 November 2015 7pm