Alex Prager is an American photographer and filmmaker who blends fantasy and hyperrealism in elaborately constructed images and films.Read More
Alex Prager was born in 1979 in Los Angeles, California, where she continues to live and work. At the age of 13, after moving to Florida with her family, Prager left school and moved to Lucerne, Switzerland where she was employed at a knife shop. Prager did not complete high school education. Instead, she spent her teenage years travelling between Los Angeles, Florida and Switzerland, as well as around Europe by train.
Prager began her photography practice after viewing an exhibition of William Eggleston's at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where it was on view between 1999 and 2000. Prager was intrigued by Eggleston's eye for detail, his portrait colour photography and its themes, and it inspired her to purchase her first camera and some darkroom equipment. Six months later, Prager showed her photographs as part of her first exhibition in a hair salon.
In 2005, with artist Mercedes Heinwein, Prager created a group of works for The Book of Disquiet, as an exhibition and joint publication. Each artist contributed seven pieces, each piece representing one of the Seven Deadly Sins. A series of portraits entitled Polyester followed in 2007, which focused on what is now recognised as her signature cinematic approach reminiscent of the mid 20th century angst and naivety that Alfred Hitchcock, John Waters, and David Lynch portrayed. Her next series, The Big Valley, was shown in 2008 at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London and in 2009 at Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York.
In 2010 Prager debuted her first short film, Despair alongside a group of photographs, and it was subsequently included in the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition New Photography that same year.
In 2013, Prager's series, Face in the Crowd, debuted at Washington D.C.'s Corcoran Gallery of Art and an exhibition with New York gallery Lehmann Maupin followed.
Alex Prager's influences range from Hollywood cinema, to experimental films, popular culture, and street photography. The city of Los Angeles is referenced as both a subject and an object of enquiry throughout Alex Prager's photography. Melodrama and real emotion are fused together in the artist's images. Her photographs take note of the expectations of Hollywood fame and glamour, as well as the discontent of the city's inhabitants.
Even in very early work, Prager hinted at undercurrents of brutality and violence (particularly towards women) in mid-20th century American cinema. Julie (2007) shows a woman in a muted, canary yellow two-piece suit crouching down at the side of a road, while a black bird appears to dive towards her. The stark contrast between highly stylised, artificial beauty and cold realism adds a sense of dark comedy to real emotion within Prager's work.
During an exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London in 2008, Prager received a high volume of questions concerning the narratives behind her still photography. In response to this fascination, Prager decided to add an additional dimension to her photographs by turning them into motion-picture films.
Prager's directorial debut Despair (2010) featured Bryce Dallas Howard, the eldest daughter of legendary Hollywood filmmaker Ron Howard. The short, four-minute film tells the story of a woman who, after receiving some news from a phone call, takes her life by jumping off a New York-style apartment building. Premiering at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2010, Prager described her film as a 'full-sensory version' of her photographs—the use of climactic music, long, panoramic shots and special effects adding an extra layer of theatricality and melodrama to the narrative.
Starting with Despair (2010), Prager has directed eight films including Emmy award-winning, Touch of Evil (2011) with actress Jessica Chastain. In 2018, Silver Lake, a major exhibition at The Photographer's Gallery in London, UK, and a publication of the same name, celebrated and documented Prager's work to date.
In 2019, Prager presented an exhibition of new work, including a new film, Play the Wind (2019), at Lehmann Maupin in New York. In the 8 minute film the protagonists, Dimitri Chamblas (dean of the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts) and Riley Keough (American Honey and The Girlfriend Experience), lead a journey throughout Los Angeles.
Alex Prager is most widely known for her images of crowds. Face in the Crowd is Prager's meditation on the heightened emotion and chaos of being part of a crowd of people. Prager directed over 250 actors dressed in meticulously chosen costumes, hair and makeup. Each image abides by a different cultural memory.
Shot on a Los Angeles soundstage in early 2013, the busy crowds gather at airport terminals, hotel lobbies, beaches, movie theatres, and other public spaces. Prager explored similar themes within a film of the same name starring Elizabeth Banks. Presented alongside Prager's still photography at Lehmann Maupin in 2014, the film is an immersive artwork, a three-channel video installation, with three monologues told in three different voiceovers.
Alex Prager's work has been exhibited internationally, most prominently at Fotografiska, Tallinn (2020); Fotografiska Stockholm (2019); Fondazione Sozzani, Milan, Italy (2019); FOAM Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2019); Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, Russia, (2019); Musée des Beaux-Arts Le Locle, Switzerland (2018); The Photographers' Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2018); Des Moines Art Center, IA (2017–2018); Saint Louis Art Museum, MO (2015); Galerie des Galeries, Paris, France (2015); Goss Michael Foundation, Dallas, TX (2015); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2014); Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2013); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2013); and the FOAM Photography Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2012).
Prager's work is held in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and SFMOMA.
Olivia Fletcher | Ocula | 2021
Alex Prager was born in the bedroom of her grandmother's house, in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, in 1979. She had an upbringing with few rules and little structure. At fourteen, she spen
It comes as no surprise that Alex Prager's decision to become a photographer came after seeing a William Eggleston exhibition. She shares his obsession with hyper-saturated colour and manages to take
The best horror movie in New York City right now is Alex Prager’s La Grande Sortie, a 10-minute film playing on continuous loop at the Chrystie Street branch of Lehmann Maupin Gallery. The film is the latest entry in Prager’s oeuvre of cinematic and photographic investigations into subjects that tantalize and challenge the viewer. For...
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