Friday, September 30, 2016

A Beautiful Film and an Unimpressed Audience: Alex Prager at Lehmann Maupin

Alex Prager's current show on the Lower East Side is compelling and charming and funny, but only for the viewer that makes the effort to see it all.

Prager’s show, "La Grande Sortie", takes up the first and second floor of the gallery. The first floor has 10 large photographs depicting a small, mostly white, half-interested audience.  The large photographs are technically well done, but a casual observer might have difficultly finding anything interesting within them. The audience depicted seems to be intentionally composed of people who are not particularly special.  The photographs are single frame depictions of Prager’s film that confronts the the dual perspectives of performer and audience. This is nearly impossible to glean unless the viewer climbs to the second floor.

Up the stairs, hidden behind a heavy black curtain, is the work that is the heart of this show:  a short film commissioned by the Paris Opera Ballet, "La Grande Sortie." The ten minute video tells the story of a ballerina’s performance on opening night. Her dance is hampered by stage fright. The real or imagined indifferent and hostile reactions of the audience only intensifies the fears of the dancer on the stage.  The tempo of the classical music and the feeling of dread increases as the ballerina begins magically dancing with members of her unimpressed audience.  Concluding with a vanishing act, The ballerina disappears in a cloud of smoke, the film elegantly speaks to the universal sense of anxiety that many people battle daily.  Once viewed, the first floor’s photographs transform from dull to poignant.  The show leaves the viewer with a sense of compassion and empathy for the internal struggles others face.


  1. This may be my preference, but I think you should engage the reader actively by replacing the "casual pedestrian," "viewer," "one," etc. with "you." Part of this show is placing you as the gallery visitor on the stage. I like the structure you already have and this small shift in tone might make your review even stronger.

  2. I really like how you lead the reader through the exhibition space, especially through your specific and sequenced view of the show. I agree with J.B. above that being clear in your language that you are the one doing the viewing would not only strengthen the review, but emphasize this feeling of wandering through the exhibition even more. While I definitely agree with your assessment of the video, I'm not sure that the photograph's totally transformed for me (but that's just my opinion). While it was interesting that they had more context, they seemed even more dull after the incredible intensity of the film.

    1. Sorry - photographs, not photograph's. :)