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Alex Prager’s monstrous banalities

Alex Prager’s monstrous banalities

Until September 4, FOAM is showing the work of the American photographer Alex Prager. The exhibition offers an overview of her work, foregrounding elaborate mises-en-scène, technical sophistication, and a caustic look at the fetters of glamor.

A cinema-loving photographer

Alex Prager is living proof that when it comes to photography, being self-taught opens up paths to free expression and bold experimentation. In every single image, the young American photographer demonstrates a perfect mastery of her art. The main feature of her work is her capacity to inspire a seemingly infinite number of possible readings and paths of approach.

​​​​Desiree, from the series The Big Valley, 2008 © Alex Prager. Courtesy Alex Prager Studio and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul. 

A seasoned film-lover (especially Hitchcock), she incorporates Hollywood citations into her work, adopting cinematic codes and references to invent her own language. Her photography could be termed “genre photography” (including horror, B pictures, comedy).

In addition to cinema, photographic influences are also present in her work: William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, and Cindy Sherman. Every one of Alex Prager’s images contains a multitude of veiled messages.

When the public becomes an active audience

Alex Prager’s knowledge of art history allows her to display an impressive technical prowess, whether it comes to her sense of staging, composition (in terms of both the overall effect and the details), or her abundant use of color.

Alex Prager seduces the viewer with her meticulously thought-out and stylized photographs which multiply allusions and references. These cinematographic images, which appear frozen in time, allow the public to put together the suspended narrative, seek out the references, and note the details hidden in each photograph.

Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas), from the series Long Week-End, 2010 © Alex Prager. Courtesy Alex Prager Studio and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul. 

The technique in the service of fear

Far from empty shells, these photographs powerfully convey, under the cover of glamor and through the use of humor and sophistication, a monstrous aspect of humanity, a terrifying truth. The uncompromising mise-en-scène framing the protagonist is a means of denouncing social fetters, especially those constraining women. Alex Prager’s work thus echoes Miles Aldridge, recently exhibited at the Christophe Guye Gallery and featured in our magazine.

This prolific autodidact now shows her work in major museums worldwide, including the MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the SFMoMA.

Rita from the series Week-End, 2009 © Alex Prager. Courtesy Alex Prager Studio and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul. 

By Sophie Puig

Alex Prager, Silver Lake Drive

une 14 – September 4

Foam Fotografiemuseum, Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS, Amsterdam

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