Alex Prager Continues to Examines Cultural Mythologies and Archetypes
Part Two: Run, Alex Prager's multi-part exhibition at Lehmann Maupin will culminate in the debut of Prager’s ambitious new film at the gallery’s New York location in January 2023. Directly responding to a period of cultural ambivalences and uncertainties, the exhibition urgently examines the collective will to exist and explores the opportunities for empathy, participation, and action present both within art and everyday life.
Throughout the ten photographic works that comprise Part Two: Run that will be featured in Palm Beach, Prager examines the cultural mythologies and archetypes that shape our shared existence. Fervently cinematic, works such as Claire and Frances, Diner, and The West craft richly developed characters and interrogate genres such as the noir and the Western as they probe contemporary concerns and anxieties. Occupying a tenuous relationship to time and place, the carefully staged figures remain suspended between the past and the present.
Across her practice, Prager crafts rich, often ambiguous narratives. Slyly suspended in action, Prager’s carefully staged but ultimately open-ended scenes invite questioning and active engagement from viewers. Prager’s work suggests a relentless, unyielding movement forward through time even in the face of suspended uncertainties and anxieties, but her nostalgic and cinematic body of work also evokes a notion of contemporary experience that looks to the past to interpret the present and explore themes about common humanity. The Palm Beach exhibition builds upon a solo presentation of the artist’s work at Lehmann Maupin London earlier this year.
In this new body of work, Prager engages theatrical strategies and cinematic conventions, exploring how both our senses of self and our engagement with others are often mediated by identification with familiar narratives and tropes. Shot from above, Mime is a vivid, intricately orchestrated image of a group. The work’s sharp angle renders the scene uncanny, at once exposing its artifice and undermining it. Present in the lower edge of the work is the titular mime, gesturing expressively with her hands, but the mime as the idea of a farcical drama is present in the entirety of the frame. In Prager’s work, the mime is not only a character, but also, perhaps, a method for thinking through strategies of representation: here, and across Prager’s practice, figures assume familiar postures and poses in order to inhabit character; to engage and reflect; and ultimately, to understand and empathize with others. Viewers, too, become active participants in Prager’s works. At the center of Mime is a woman with a camera, who faces the viewer and points her lens toward them. Here, as throughout the exhibition, Prager invites viewers into her visually and symbolically saturated works, suggesting that they, too, have critical parts to play.
The foundation for this new body of work is the artist’s powerful new film, Run, which will be exhibited at the gallery’s New York location in January 2023. Featuring musical compositions by Ellen Reid and Philip Glass and starring Katherine Waterston, the film deploys cinematic archetypes and absurdist humor as it examines human resilience in the face of catastrophe. An otherwise ordinary day in an uncannily generic setting erupts into chaos when a massive, mirrored sphere propels itself through a community. Here, forward motion is countered by retrospection, and figures collide into their own reflections in the sphere’s surface, and Prager suggests a curative, collective reckoning with those forces outside of our control.