Alex Prager’s knee-high perspective

The Californian photographer’s new Hong Kong show offers a childlike view of her idiosyncratic vision
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Alex Prager, Burbank, 2014 archival pigment print 59 x 78.58 inches 149.9 x 199.6 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong
Alex Prager, Burbank, 2014 archival pigment print 59 x 78.58 inches 149.9 x 199.6 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

To say Alex Prager is a masterful photographer of crowds is to tell only half her story. In her 2013 series, Face in the Crowd, the 35-year-old US artist composed a series of moody, large-scale, colour group shots you might expect to find in the continuity photographs for a mid-seventies Robert Altman film, or exposures on some long-lost contact sheets of William Eggleston -  an early Prager influence.

 

Alex Prager Simi Valley, 2014 archival pigment print 47 x 96 inches 119.4 x 243.8 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong
Alex Prager Simi Valley, 2014 archival pigment print 47 x 96 inches 119.4 x 243.8 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Yet there’s an eerie psychological, Hitchcock-style charge to her shots. As we put it this piece last year, “the crowd of individual characters are connected by their close proximity yet, at the same time, isolated in their own private worlds.”

Now, in her new series, (five large scale photographs and some video work) which just went on show at the Lehmann Maupin gallery in Hong Kong yesterday, Prager has pared back the extras, preferring instead to put together a set of nose-to-nose group discussions, viewed from a little person’s perspective. At knee height, these groups seem perfectly composed yet, at the same time, somewhat sinister.

Given the outdated clothes and colour balances, Is there an element of nostalgia in here? Or does this new, infantilised world view make these lofty congregations look both more adult, and distant? As Lehmann Maupin puts it, “by creating contorted points of view, especially in the works where the viewer looks up from below at the subjects in the photographs, Prager captures moments of stillness and isolation impossible to view in reality.”

 

Alex Prager, Culver City, 2014 archival pigment print 59 x 88.5 inches 149.9 x 224.8 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong
Alex Prager, Culver City, 2014 archival pigment print 59 x 88.5 inches 149.9 x 224.8 cm Edition of 6 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Or, as The Photography Book puts it, "Prager's pictures are as carefully put together as any Renaissance altarpiece, but with iconography drawn from everyday life which we decipher instinctively: shades of lipstick, hairstyles, cell-phone usage."

You can get a better look by visiting Lehmann Maupin at 12 Pedder Street in Hong Kong any from now until 16 May. If you're in HK for Art Basel, do read our Wallpaper* City Guide reccomendation; meanwhile, for more from Prager’s perspective read our interview, and for greater insight into her place within photography, buy a copy of The Photography Book  our newly updated canonical overview.

 

Installation view, Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong March 12 – May 16, 2015 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong
Installation view, Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong March 12 – May 16, 2015 Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong


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