The work of Alex Israel is a love letter to Los Angeles. Whether that be in a painting, sculpture, film, video, prints, or fragrance, the LA native’s creative process is intrinsically linked to the city. His studio is on the Warner Brothers Studio backlot, where he makes paintings with the in-house artist who professionally paints movie backdrops. His signature profile self-portrait is inspired by Hitchcock’s. He has collaborated with the quintessential L.A. writer Brett Easton Ellis. He has interviewed celebrities like Tom Hanks and Kris Jenner for his talk show “As It Lays” and appreciates the art and excess of fame, even in genres like reality TV (as we imagine, Andy Warhol would, too). What I love about Alex’s work is that he is not afraid to challenge the strict binaries of the art world. He’s happy making art that exists in that in-between, that is maybe art-adjacent. In fact, he’s said he finds it freeing.
Israel received a BA from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, in 2003, and an MFA from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 2010. The artist’s feature-length take on the teen surf drama, SPF-18 (2017), which is available for streaming on Netflix and iTunes. Occupying the spaces of pop culture and media, Israel’s collaborations with Ellis, Louis Vuitton, Rimowa, and Snapchat—along with his own Infrathin Apparel clothing line and his embrace of mass platforms such as Netflix and YouTube—allow his work to engage directly with the mainstream, to glide across surfaces, from limited-edition consumer products to teenagers’ smartphone screens, moving through our thoughts, algorithms, and clouds.