Prager cultivates an uncanny, dreamlike mood throughout her oeuvre—an effect heightened by her use of timeless costuming and richly saturated colors that recall technicolor films, as well as the mysterious or inexplicable happenings she often depicts. Her meticulously crafted photographs are filled with hyperreal details, from signatures on the cast of a high school football player or bandage on the nose of a woman running in terror, to the face in the reflection of a handheld mirror or figure revealed to be a cardboard cutout, firmly locating Prager’s images in the real world and belying the sense of the surreal that often pervades her work.
Although Prager’s immersive, large-scale photographs of crowds are among her best-known work the artist’s newest series evinces a return to portraiture, a genre she first explored early in her practice. Rendered on a smaller, more intimate scale that draws the viewer in, Part One: The Mountain features a series of stripped-down Americana portraits that capture the artist’s subjects in the midst of intense inner turmoil. The inspiration for Part One: The Mountain arose from Prager’s deep desire to examine the myriad emotional states we have all experienced during one of the greatest collective upheavals in modern society. Conceived as psychological portraits, these images visualize a private moment that is understood universally.
Prager’s subjects in Part One: The Mountain can be seen as archetypes, an update of sorts to those found in ancient Greek mythology. The series includes Prager’s quintessential characters, placed in a world that teeters between the fabricated and the familiar. Each image in the series occupies ambiguous territory, leaving space for the viewer to interpret each scene and draw their own conclusions about its narrative.
The title of the exhibition, Part One: The Mountain, is highly symbolic, with the idea of the mountain referenced throughout literature, religion, and psychology as a place where personal revelations, or reckonings, can occur. If the idea of summiting a peak has historically suggested a spiritual pilgrimage or intense physical challenge, it should be remembered that traversing mountainous terrain has often symbolized overcoming obstacles or making hard-won progress. If we have found ourselves metaphorically on the mountain over the course of the past two years, Prager’s newest body of work prompts us to imagine what the world will look like when we finally come back down.
The exhibition is supported by WePresent, WeTransfer’s digital arts platform.
On view from 21 January - 5 March, please note that this exhibition is closed on Sundays.
Alex Prager, Dawn, 2021. Archival pigment print, 48 x 36.9 inches (121.92 x 93.73 cm).
Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London