Alex Prager lives and works in Los Angeles, US
In Alex Prager’s photographs, individuality and community, specificities and archetypes offer political insights into our collective lives. The artist reminds us that all fears, hopes, day jobs, and aspirations are worthy of monumental and allegorical presentation; in this way, her crowds are egalitarian. They evince that one’s fear of being lost—merely one life in a sea of lives—is tragic, beautiful, arduous, a source of unity, and like the photograph itself, replicable.
The staging of emotion, in a street photograph or on your face upon arriving to the office, constitutes an act of labor. Prager’s crowds require the direction of hundreds of extras and the loving curation of their outfits, poses, and interiorities. It is the labor of being one of many; the labor of being alone; the labor of amassing a community; the labor of being a photographer. It is the labor of capturing within life itself a scene that shows who you really are.
We might then connect Prager’s crowds to democratic studies of class and labor, like August Sander’s Face of Our Time (1929) and Irving Penn’s Small Trades (1950–51), which present, in encyclopedic fashion, spare and frontal images of everyday people accompanied by the identifying accoutrements of their respective trades. From Bruegel’s rowdy scenes to Sander’s censorship by the Nazis, evocations of the agency or interior life of the masses have drawn elitist ire. Prager’s contemporary crowds, filled with markers of class, gender, occupation, and privilege (or lack thereof), absorb and require us to consider the very real ramifications of collectivity and estrangement.
William J. Simmons
Big West, 2022, LOTTE Museum of Art, Seoul (KR) (solo)
Oil. Beauty and Horror in the Petrol Age, 2021, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg (DE)
Alex Prager: Farewell, Work Holiday Parties, 2020, LACMA – Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (US) (solo)
Alex Prager, 2014, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (AU) (solo)
No fashion, please!, 2011, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (AT)