Face in the Crowd

By Sarah Kobos

Jan 16, 2014 7:00am

 

You need not step inside a gallery to see Alex Prager’s newest work. Since this blog was first published, IFC hired her to shoot the promotional photos for season four of “Portlandia.” The advertisements can currently be seen in the New York subway. Face in the Crowd

Prager’s photographs are meant to be viewed large, so subway advertisements are a surprisingly perfect platform.

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager’s first solo museum show in the U.S., “Face in the Crowd” presents 29 photographs and four films, as well as her newest body of work by the same name. It’s up at the Corcoran Gallery of Art until March 9, 2014 and it is worth a visit. Upon walking into the exhibit, one is surrounded by massive, magnificent photographs that lead you towards the film, which stars Hunger Games star Elizabeth Banks and surrounds the viewer from three sides.

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, Poster for Face in the Crowd, 2013. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

“Alex Prager is pushing the boundaries of both film and photography with her new series “Face in the Crowd,” which features large-scale photographs and an immersive, three-channel video installation. Created simultaneously, the photographs and film work together and inform each other in innovative and exciting ways. By design, the viewer becomes part of the “crowd” but also learns the personal, revealing, at times humorous stories of the characters depicted in the photographs.” -Kaitlin Booher, Assistant Curator of Photography and Media Arts at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

 

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas), 2010. 5. Archival pigment print, 48 x 81 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

Prager has been creating imagery in this style for a decade. She stages melodramatic dream worlds in front of her lens that are inspired by classic Hollywood, post-war America, fashion advertising, burlesque, and documentary photography icons.

 

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, Crowd #2 (Emma), 2012. Archival 6. pigment print, 59 x 80.7 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

According to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, “Face in the Crowd” is Prager’s most ambitious and complex series to date. It features large-scale photographs of people assembled in congested public spaces. Prager is at home in the grey area between fiction and reality. For “Face in the Crowd” she directed hundreds of actors in costumes within specially constructed sets.

 

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, Crowd #3 (Pelican Beach), 2013. 7. Archival pigment print, 59.5 x 92.83 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

Prager doesn’t overlook any details, no matter how small. Her use of color is carefully thought out and vividly resembles technicolor. The same can be said for her poignant films. Prager states that “Crowds have always been an interest of mine. It may look like a sea of people, but there are so many interesting stories, all colliding silently.”

 

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, Crowd #4 (New Haven), 2013. Archival pigment print, 59.5 x 75 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

The scenes in Prager’s work “enact psychological narratives of private and public revelation, repulsion, fear, personal safety, and the desire for basic human interaction.”

 

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, Crowd #5 (Washington Square West), 2013. Archival pigment print, 59.5 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

Prager is “fascinated by the experience of being involved in other people’s lives accidentally” which is often unavoidable in busy cities such as New York and London, in which Prager has spent time.

 

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, 3:14 pm, Pacific Ocean and Eye #9 (Passenger Casualties), 2012. Two archival pigment prints, 59 x 55.4 inches and 20 x 23 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

Alongside Prager’s work from the series “Face in the Crowd,” the exhibition features a vast selection of earlier photographs and films. Another influence of hers is clearly the popular children’s book “Where’s Waldo?” The dark humor in her work has been influenced by Roy Andersson’s film “Songs from the Second Floor.”

 

 Face in the Crowd

Alex Prager, Despair Film Still #4, 2010. Archival pigment print, 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles.

The film, staring Elizabeth Banks, and photographs for “Face in the Crowd” uphold a dynamic portrait of the individual within the complexity of the larger crowd.

 

The above video gives an inside look at the “Face in the Crowd” exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. “Face in the Crowd” is also on display at Lemann Maupin Gallery in Chelsea, New York until Feb. 22, 2014.

For more featured photography curated by ABC News’ photo editors, and at Picture This, the ABC News photography blog.

 

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