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.
Art Basel Hong Kong 2022
May 27–29, 2022, booth 1C15
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong 2022 with an ensemble of contemporary works by international artists. The gallery’s presentation will feature works by artists including Georg Baselitz, Louise Bonnet, Edmund de Waal, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Jennifer Guidi, Simon Hantaï, Hao Liang, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Tetsuya Ishida, Alex Israel, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Rick Lowe, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Giuseppe Penone, Rudolf Polanszky, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Saville, Jim Shaw, Rudolf Stingel, Spencer Sweeney, Rachel Whiteread, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2022. Artwork, left to right: © Georg Baselitz; © Louise Bonnet; © Zeng Fanzhi; © 2019 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved; © Rudolf Stingel. Photo: Martin Wong
Art Basel Miami Beach 2021
December 2–4, 2021, booth D5
Miami Beach Convention Center
Gagosian is pleased to announce its participation in Art Basel Miami Beach 2021 with a presentation of modern and contemporary works. A selection of these works will also appear on gagosian.com and on Art Basel’s Online Viewing Room.
Gagosian’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021. Artwork, left to right: © Albert Oehlen; © Judd Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Mary Weatherford. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
West Bund Art & Design 2021
November 12–14, 2021, booth A102
West Bund Art Center, Shanghai
Gagosian is pleased to participate in the eighth edition of West Bund Art & Design. The gallery will present works by Balthus, Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Glenn Brown, Helen Frankenthaler, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Tetsuya Ishida, Alex Israel, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Rudolf Stingel, Spencer Sweeney, Zao Wou-Ki, and Zeng Fanzhi, among others.
To receive a pdf with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tetsuya Ishida, Untitled (Planting Trees), 2000 © Estate of Tetsuya Ishida
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
Face à Arcimboldo
May 29–November 22, 2021
Centre Pompidou-Metz, France
This exhibition, whose title translates to Arcimboldo Face to Face, invites visitors to explore the timeless vocabulary of the sixteenth-century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (c. 1527–1593). The show demonstrates how his work has influenced art history for more than four centuries through the work of 130 artists, including work by Francis Bacon, Glenn Brown, Alex Israel, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and Ed Ruscha.
Ewa Juszkiewicz, Untitled (After Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun), 2020 © Ewa Juszkiewicz
Wayne Thiebaud Influencer
A New Generation
June 3–November 12, 2021
Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis
On the occasion of his 100th birthday, this exhibition explores the profound influence that Wayne Thiebaud, longtime UC Davis art professor, has had on subsequent generations of artists, including both fellow painters and his former students. Pairings explore how Thiebaud forecast the future of painting through his personal journey to find meaning and reinvention in the medium’s history. Work by Alex Israel and Jonas Wood is included.
Jonas Wood, Four Majors, 2018, Installation view, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, University of California, Davis, June 3–November 12, 2021. Artwork © Jonas Wood. Photo: Cleber Bonato