[February 29 2016]
Recently, Alex Israel made his first foray into movie-making with Baywatch co-creator Michael Berk as screenwriter, resulting in a feature-length film SPF 18, which will premier later this year. Inspired and emboldened by the experience, he then approached Bret Easton Ellis to collaborate. The friendship between them spawned a lively ongoing discourse on their city of fantasy and possibility, leading to the current body of work. At Israel’s provocation, Ellis wrote short texts. Then, Israel converted the selected texts into various fonts, resourced directly from the local landscape, and combined them with commercial stock images–sunsets, rolling surf, aerial views of the city and close-up details of its vernacular architecture–the rights to which he purchased online. The hyperfilmic results were adapted to the scale and medium of monumental paintings.
With their floating captions and outsized dimensions, the paintings resemble the opening credits of feature films and the billboards of the Sunset Strip. And yet, their material connection to painting is never relinquished–the canvas is brushed with a clear gel medium to imbue a sense of texture and palpability, before their processing through the inkjet printer. Taken together, the paintings evoke a slideshow of the city’s subconscious; a surreal film pitch. Each of Ellis’s captions suggests a larger narrative or overarching story, of which the viewer is given but a glimpse, for example: “The ghost resided in the guesthouse by the pool. At night it sometimes floated up the palm tree and drifted on its fronds, wondering if anyone cared,” and “Numbness is a feeling.”
Text Gagosian and photo Bianca Vazquez