I’m not really a surfer but I often think about my approach as related to surfing: I’m on a wave, and I either go with it or I don’t. In some ways, I find it interesting to let myself go with it, to see where it goes and to see how it works. Maybe that gives me the energy or the fuel to be able to carve into it, or to do tricks on it, or to change things up without fighting it.
Gagosian is pleased to present New Waves by Alex Israel, his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong.
In Israel’s work, Los Angeles is both city and symbol, reality and fantasy. Brightly colored California sunsets become cinematic backdrops, glimpses of the beach appear in portraits and vignettes, and Hollywood’s mythologies shed light on the American dream itself, embodied by celebrity culture, surfer optimism, and the pursuit of luxury and thrill.
New Waves includes multimedia works related to Israel’s first feature-length film, SPF-18 (2017), a teenage romantic comedy touching on themes of love and loss, with the beating sun and crashing waves of the LA coast giving each scene an ethereal, nostalgic quality. While shooting the film, Israel noticed pelicans silhouetted against the sky or swooping in at the edge of the frame. The closest living species to pterodactyls, these long-beaked birds signal a prehistoric time, suggesting a natural continuity at work within the world’s entertainment capital. Pelican (2017), suspended from the gallery ceiling, is a lifelike interactive sculpture of a California brown pelican. At the pull of a string hanging from the bird’s abdomen, its wings flap, its head nods, and its eyes blink rhythmically, slowing down until coming to a stop. The pelican appears again in a short animated video, to be released online on May 24, in which neon lights, newspaper headlines, and art historical references flash into view, showing Israel’s deep attunement to the intersection of media, history, and visual pleasure.
In SPF-18, protagonist Johnny Sanders, Jr., dreams of a giant animated wave, evoking the sublime power of the ocean, yet imagining this force as a stylized representation, blurring the boundaries between natural and artificial spectacles. Israel expands on this same graphic in his Waves, which incorporate the colors and textures of surfing equipment, from surfboards to slick wetsuits. To form the wave logo, pieces of neoprene were sewn together and stretched over canvas supports. Subsequently, these forms were cast in fiberglass resin and airbrushed in bright gradients, creating eye-catching tableaux that recall Hokusai’s famous woodblock print Under the Wave off Kanagawa (c. 1830–32), as well as the work of West Coast artist and surfer Ken Price.
New Waves marks the debut of Israel’s Los Angeles–based clothing brand, Infrathin, with unisex apparel available for sale in a pop-up store in the gallery’s lobby.
《SPF-18》的主角Johnny Sanders Jr.幻想有一股動畫巨浪，召喚出海洋的崇高力量，卻將此能量想象成獨具一格的表現形式，從而模糊自然與人工景觀的界限。伊斯雷爾在《浪潮》系列作品中沿用此圖形，並融入衝浪板、潛水服等衝浪裝備的色彩及質感。潛水布料拼湊縫製在一起，然後像畫布一樣裱在畫框上從而形成波浪標誌。隨後利用玻璃纖維樹脂鑄造作品，再利用噴槍營造漸變色效果，呼應葛飾北齋的著名浮世繪作品《神奈川衝浪裡》(約 – 年)和西岸藝術家兼滑浪好手肯尼斯‧普萊斯(Ken Price)的作品。
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.