Alex Israel explores and embraces pop culture as a global visual language. Deeply entwined with his hometown of Los Angeles, he traffics in the detritus of Hollywood film production—backdrops, sets, and props—while also inhabiting the roles of filmmaker, talk-show host, designer, and hologram. Israel’s art practice doubles as a brand, centered around a Southern Californian millennial lifestyle for which his iconic profile-in-shades Self-Portrait functions as a logo, mobilized across high-visibility platforms in the worlds of art, entertainment, fashion, and tech. Embedded within each of Israel’s endeavors are not only a landscape (of LA) and a portrait (of himself), but a savvy meditation on a world fueled by celebrity, product placement, and online influence.
Israel received a BA from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, in 2003, and an MFA from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 2010. The following year, he began producing works at the Warner Bros. Design Studio in Burbank, California. These include Flats, a series of shaped panels airbrushed to suggest the distinctive gradients of LA sunsets, and Sky Backdrops, ethereal canvases depicting cloudy skies streaked with pink, blue, and orange. These series were born out of the set of As It Lays, a DIY talk show in which a deadpan Israel interviews celebrities about their everyday lives and routines as a form of portraiture. Israel’s Self-Portrait series began life as the show’s Hitchcock-inspired logo, evolving into color-block paintings on fiberglass panels, and ultimately into larger photorealistic paintings that feature the LA landscape, reflections on its culture industry, and clues to the artist’s process.
For Property, Israel’s first purely sculptural project, which he began as a student, he enlisted rented movie studio props as “inanimate actors” to perform the roles of various readymades in the gallery. Inversely, he will on occasion manufacture a seamless movie prop replica, transforming a silver-screen memory into a physical multiple. His Lenses, a series of high-gloss, massively scaled-up UV-protective plastic sunglass lenses, references 1960s California Finish Fetish sculpture and the artist’s own Freeway Eyewear brand. Self-Portrait (Wetsuits) are hollow cast aluminum figures that draw on classical antiquity, custom surf gear, and the artist’s feature-length take on the teen surf drama, SPF-18 (2017), which is available for streaming on Netflix and iTunes. Israel’s Waves, painting reliefs that turn the image of a cresting tide into yet another stylized logo, also have their origins in this film.
In 2016 and 2017, Israel’s collaboration with novelist Bret Easton Ellis resulted in two exhibitions of text paintings. Artist and author share a fascination with LA as both background and subject, and in their coproduced works reflect on the city’s mythos by setting Ellis’s short texts against Israel’s stock backdrops. Occupying the spaces of pop culture and media, Israel’s collaborations with Ellis, Louis Vuitton, Rimowa, and Snapchat—along with his own Infrathin Apparel clothing line and his embrace of mass platforms such as Netflix and YouTube—allow his work to engage directly with the mainstream, to glide across surfaces, from limited-edition consumer products to teenagers’ smartphone screens, moving through our thoughts, algorithms, and clouds.
Alex Israel: Freeway
The exhibition Alex Israel: Freeway, presented at Fosun Foundation, Shanghai, is an in-depth survey of the artist’s practice. Curated by Jeffrey Deitch, the exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue featuring a conversation between Israel and Jenny Wang Jinyuan, as well as essays by the artist, Deitch, and cultural critic Sean Monahan. To celebrate the occasion, we are sharing Monahan’s essay, “Teenage Obsolescence.”
Alex Israel: New Waves
An animated, short video by Alex Israel takes viewers on a visual journey through the ideas and imagery behind his latest exhibition in Hong Kong.
Alex Israel and Venus Lau
Alex Israel speaks with curator and writer Venus Lau about New Waves, his latest exhibition in Hong Kong. Israel reveals his spirit animal, discusses his love of Duchamp, and tells Lau about the process behind his newest works.
Alex Israel discusses his feature-length film with Derek Blasberg.
Alex Israel / Bret Easton Ellis
Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews the artist and writer about their recent collaboration.
Diana Widmaier Picasso, curator of the exhibition Desire, reflects on the history of eroticism in art.
West Bund Art & Design 2023
November 9–12, 2023, booth A102
West Bund Art Center, Shanghai
Gagosian is pleased to participate in West Bund Art & Design with an extensive group presentation. The gallery will exhibit works by Harold Ancart, Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Hao Liang, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Alex Israel, Jia Aili, Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Ed Ruscha, Alexandria Smith, Spencer Sweeney, Cameron Welch, Jonas Wood, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at West Bund Art & Design 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Zeng Fanzhi; © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany 2023; © Spencer Sweeney; © Yayoi Kusama. Photo: Alessandro Wang
Frieze Seoul 2023
September 7–9, 2023, booth C14
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Frieze Seoul 2023 with a presentation of contemporary works by gallery artists, including Derrick Adams, Georg Baselitz, Dan Colen, Edmund de Waal, Jadé Fadojutimi, Urs Fischer, Cy Gavin, Mehdi Ghadyanloo, Nan Goldin, Katharina Grosse, Jennifer Guidi, Thomas Houseago, Alex Israel, Rick Lowe, Takashi Murakami, Nam June Paik, Giuseppe Penone, Ed Ruscha, Alexandria Smith, Anna Weyant, Stanley Whitney, Jonas Wood, and Richard Wright, among others.
Coinciding with the fair is the arrival of Jiyoung Lee, who was recently appointed to lead the gallery’s operations in Korea. Lee joins Gagosian following nearly fifteen years based in Seoul working on behalf of both Korean and Western galleries. Her appointment builds on the gallery’s establishment of a business entity in Korea last year, and provides for expanded activities in the region.
Gagosian’s booth at Frieze Seoul 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Jadé Fadojutimi, © Jen Guidi, © Alexandria Smith, © Mehdi Ghadyanloo, © Rick Lowe Studio, © Jonas Wood. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Art Basel Hong Kong 2023
March 22–25, 2023
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong 2023 with a presentation of modern and contemporary works by international artists.
Jadé Fadojutimi, As usual, the season’s showers tend to linger, 2023 © Jadé Fadojutimi
Desire, Knowledge, and Hope (with Smog)
Through April 7, 2024
The Broad, Los Angeles
Desire, Knowledge, and Hope (with Smog) is drawn entirely from the Broad collection and showcases works by Los Angeles–based artists. Titled after a work by John Baldessari, the exhibition includes reflections on Los Angeles as a city in flux and turmoil, and on societal issues that extend far beyond the city. Featuring more than sixty works made from 1969 to 2023, it brings together photorealistic painting, photography, sculpture, and political signage by twenty-one artists across varying generations. Work by Mark Grotjahn, Alex Israel, Ed Ruscha, and Jonas Wood is included.
Ed Ruscha, Honey . . . . I Twisted Through More Damned Traffic to Get Here, 1984, The Broad, Los Angeles © Ed Ruscha
Room by Room
Concepts, Themes, and Artists in the Rachofsky Collection
September 9–November 25, 2023
The Warehouse, Dallas
Room by Room builds on the ongoing interest at The Warehouse to reflect on the development of its collection, presenting works for the first time. Spanning a range of mediums, geographies, and eras, each gallery focuses on a single artist or theme, allowing an in-depth look at the artistic movements important to the collection from the outset, together with other avenues of interest that have developed over the years. Work by Richard Artschwager, Carol Bove, Alex Israel, Sterling Ruby, and Jonas Wood is included.
Jonas Wood, Patterned Interior with Mar Vista View, 2020, Rachofsky Collection, installation view, The Warehouse, Dallas © Jonas Wood. Photo: Kevin Todora
Alex Israel × Snapchat
November 29, 2021–May 15, 2022
Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida
This exhibition uses Snapchat’s augmented reality (AR) technology to bring Alex Israel’s Self-Portraits to life, transforming five of his paintings into portals to immersive animated experiences. “Lenses” accessed through the visitor’s smartphone overlay Snapchat’s groundbreaking AR onto Israel’s physical works to offer viewers a new experience of painting. A site-specific sixth work interacts with the museum’s historic Art Deco façade, bringing the building to life.
Alex Israel, Self-Portrait (Pelican with Fish), 2019 © Alex Israel
November 11, 2021–March 6, 2022
Fosun Foundation, Shanghai
Freeway features Alex Israel’s interpretations of the iconic Los Angeles motifs of sunshine, waves, and the sky, informed by his unique perspective on mass media and popular culture through the lens of his multiple identities as artist, entrepreneur, filmmaker, and talk-show host. This survey exhibition, covering the past decade of the artist’s career, includes works in a range of mediums, and is the first time that Israel’s Self-Portrait and Sky Backdrop series have been presented in China.
Installation view, Alex Israel: Freeway, Fosun Foundation, Shanghai, November 11, 2021–March 6, 2022. Artwork © Alex Israel. Photo: JJY Photo