Bret Easton Ellis (right) and Alex Israel on Alex Israel's online talk show, As It Lays, 2012.

Bret Easton Ellis and Alex Israel host Oscars show

The novelist and the visual artist's show for the LA Gagosian will open just before the 2016 Academy Awards

Each year the Gagosian gallery in Los Angeles hosts a high-profile exhibition, opening on the Thursday before the Academy Awards. In 2015, Leonardo DiCaprio, Elton John, and Mick Jagger came to the preview of the Gagosian’s John Currin exhibition.

This year, the gallery expects to see an equally well-known crowd at its February vernissage, when the Gagosian will debut a display of large-scale paintings by the novelist and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis and the contemporary artist Alex Israel.

Ellis wrote a series of short texts for the works, which Israel placed across photographs of Los Angeles, each drawn from commercial, stock-image libraries. Israel also picked the typefaces, which, the gallery says, were drawn “directly from the local landscape.”


Painting by Alex Israel and Brett Easton Ellis, 2016. Image courtesy of the Gagosian gallery.
Painting by Alex Israel and Brett Easton Ellis, 2016. Image courtesy of the Gagosian gallery.

Ellis’s lines, which include “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.”, certainly conjure up the kind of comfortable, melancholic hollowness that he has expressed in his books.

Israel adds to this, not only by placing the words across pretty, clichéd images of palm trees and plum-coloured skies, but also by finishing the works off at the Warner Brothers studio, where production crews once employed to paint Hollywood film backdrops completed these paintings.

Israel has used these scenery painters in the past, and has worked with Ellis for some years too. The artist interviewed the novelist for the French magazine Purple, and cross-examined him as a guest on Israel’s artsy, LA talk show, As It Lays.


Alex Israel Bret Easton Ellis


Indeed, both Ellis and Israel were born in LA, and, though they were born a generation apart, they share a certain sensibility when it comes to their hometown.

Yet, do these paintings also owe a debt of inspiration to fellow Gagosian artist LA’s most famous Pop Art pioneer, Ed Ruscha? Ruscha began creating his word paintings in the early 1960s, drawing his words occasionally from literature – he favoured the British writer JG Ballard – but more commonly from dreams and newspapers.


Another Hollywood Dream Bubble Popped (1976) by Ed Ruscha
Another Hollywood Dream Bubble Popped (1976) by Ed Ruscha

Gallery goers can decide for themselves, when the show opens, 25 February. For greater insight into Ruscha’s word works buy a copy of They Called Her Styrene, Etc. here.