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Gagosian show from Alex Israel, Bret Easton Ellis 'cynical, lazy,' critic says




Alex Israel & Bret Easton Ellis, Different Kind of Star, 2016, Acrylic and UV ink on canvas, 84 × 168 inches (213.4 × 426.7 cm), at the Gagosian gallery in Los Angeles
Alex Israel & Bret Easton Ellis, Different Kind of Star, 2016, Acrylic and UV ink on canvas, 84 × 168 inches (213.4 × 426.7 cm), at the Gagosian gallery in Los Angeles
Alex Israel/Bret Easton Ellis/iStock/Jeff McLane

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In the LA Times, David Pagel criticizes the new offering at Gagosian Gallery, a collaboration by artist Alex Israel and writer Bret Easton Ellis:

What looks good from the driver’s seat doesn’t necessarily look good up-close and in person. Just about every one of their 16 images, which range in size from 6- to 14-feet on a side, would be better as a billboard. - LA Times

Mat Gleason, of Coagula Curatorial, told Off-Ramp the work would be better not as  roadside billboards, but as roadkill.

"I wish Bret Easton Ellis had just done this as a stand-up comedy act. The one-liners might have worked; maybe they're rejects from Saturday Night Live's series The Californians. The whole thing just reeks of laziness and cliche."

For Gagosian, which Gleason says is "obviously the number one gallery in the world relative to its size, its scale, and its scope," Ellis, the podcaster and author of "Less Than Zero," provided pithy lines that echo LA cliches:

Then Israel matched them with stock images of Southern California - the downtown skyline, a foggy Malibu scene, etc., as Gagosian's website explains:

The city of Los Angeles is both background and subject in the respective oeuvres of Israel and Ellis. For Israel, the American dream, as embodied by the Los Angeles mythos, remains affecting and potent. Channeling celebrity culture as well as the slick appearance and aspirations of the entertainment capital, Israel approaches his hometown with an uncanny coupling of local familiarity and anthropological curiosity. His work alludes to both California cool and calculated brand creation, embracing cliches and styles that exude the hygienic optimism endemic to the local scene.

"It's pathetic," Gleason says, "that Gagosian has stooped to undergraduate jargon. Alex Israel is an anthropologist?!"

Since Israel and Ellis are both natives who presumably know LA is richer and far more nuanced than the caricature they present, I asked Gleason if maybe this is an ironic, meta commentary on the people who hold these beliefs about LA?

"Commentary can't be this calculated. Here's the thing. You have wealthy art collectors moving to Los Angeles and they're not immersed in Los Angeles as we know it. They're clinging to the stereotypes of Los Angeles as they know it. It sounds like I'm just being cranky, but you actually have to be bold now to give any criticism to this work because there's the whole insider notion that 'Oh, you just don't get it.' I get it completely."

Listen to the audio for my readings from the art, and more of Mat's take(down).