Photos Luca Sørheim
Big chill with ice cream, sunglasses, palm trees, sunsets and Spanish architecture. Early September in Barcelona was full of Alex Israel moments like these. Especially with the artist’s profile outline on my pastel colored bag that came with me almost everywhere. We spent long, lazy days at the beach, visited Samy the Parisienne in her sneaker shop and danced to a late night set by Sven Väth. Back in Norway the summer is over in the calendar, but Indian summer is in the air. Alex Israel’s exhibition of his Los Angeles portrait has closed, but here is the monDieu recap.
When Alex Israel waited for the press to present his exhibition he was leaned towards the balcony fence next to loads of white film director’s chairs. It looked a bit unreal, like seeing a live photograph, and his characteristic sunglasses were kept on the whole time. He wore a white short sleeve shirt, white sneakers, and khaki trousers. Everything seemed flawless. Even many hours later at his artist presentation in the afternoon. He had changed to a floral patterned Hawaiian shirt in black, green and yellow at the vernissage in the evening, and kept it on for the rest of the night when he played a fun DJ pop-set at a local techno club.
Alex Israel’s artistry explores the symbolic representation of his hometown Los Angeles, the film industry in Hollywood and the admiration of celebrity where clichés are embraced. Los Angeles is central to the artist’s translation of American culture in general and his perspective on the American dream itself.
Astrup Fearnley Museet is placed right above the sea, which was reflected in a central piece of the exhibition; an installation that appropriated the Paradise Cove Pier from Malibu into the museum space. The artist had created the installation to give an experience of a míse en scéne piece. He also brought with him the scenic artist from Warner Bros, Andrew Pike, who had painted a typical, colorful LA sunset over the white museum walls as view from the pier.
Walking on the rough texture high above the polished concrete floor made the museum space feel very different from before. On the tip of the pier a wetsuit was standing in its unsmooth and bright red loneliness – coated and colored just like a typical building in LA. Unlike most other wetsuits nowadays, that are made in Korea, the wetsuit had been made in Huntington Beach, a place also called Surf City. The wetsuit is a prop from one of Alex Israel’s films, SPF 18, and the trailer that was looped on a TV screen upstairs smoothly reminded of the exhibition’s opening piece. The colors of the wetsuit downstairs harmonized with the beautiful sunset backdrop and made it all feel just perfect. That wonderful feeling lasted until I learnt that the extremely strong colors in the Los Angeles sky phenomenon painting reflected and symbolized the extreme pollution poisoning the city.