Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Alex Prager’s Face in the Crowd, at Lehmann Maupin

     Photographer Alex Prager is known for her still images that look cinematic, which are highly structured and complexly prepared. Face in the Crowd, a two-part exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, includes one venue that features Alex Prager’s large-scale photographs, with another venue featuring a three-channel video installation.

     The show consisted of several large-scale photographs of crowd scenes taken in an aerial view. The portraits were set up in various locations, such as beaches, movie theatres, airport terminals and other public spaces.  Every detail was considered when constructing these spaces.  The clothing and hairstyles chosen for each individual are mixtures of time periods that range from mid-century to present day. It is quite obvious that the artist took control of model casting, hair, makeup, costumes and set design when creating these environments. For the viewer, the scenarios seem familiar, but at the same time they are very strange as it is difficult to place the time and location of the narratives. The combinations of objects are deliberately staged and selected from various time periods, which allowed the viewer to relate to some objects. Any sense of real time is unclear in all of the images. Prager creates another reality for the characters to live and share the same physical space with each other, but all seen as separate individuals. They are detached from their surroundings and isolated in their own reveries. These photographs make parallels to how people in today’s society interact in public spaces. The use of technology, a major source for communication in today’s culture creates these distances and disconnection between individuals. People’s lives revolve around communicating though social media, but in reality they do not realize that they are absent-minded and unaware of their surroundings.

    Prager is successful in conveying the feeling of disconnection by forming crowds. Also, by manipulating the models’ physical characteristics, such as facial expressions, clothing, hairstyles, and other props, she elevates the piece to another level. Each frame is captivating from the numerous details that force you to look again and find something new.

1 comment:

  1. Your comments on isolation and alienation are spot on. I also agree that the ambiguous time periods gave the viewer a strong sense of the uncanny.

    I'm not sure I see a direct reference to social media. In contemporary society we feel a growing estrangement which comes out in most artwork being made today. I'm sure social media is one of the causes of this. Maybe if you include some specifics it would help me see the connection.

    I also like that throughout the photographs it was somehow obvious that these people were posed and motionless. These are still images of people feigning motion. A strange tension is being crated by the fact that these people have been frozen twice, once by the artist posing them and again by the camera shutter.