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July 21, 2014

Alex Prager: Crowd Control

The Philosophical Artist Continues Her Transition to Film With a Brand New Premiere

“I was traveling more than ever over the past several years: airport terminals, subways stations, streets of New York and London,” says Los Angeles native Alex Prager. “I became very aware of the crowds of people and how my emotional and psychological state really determined what I noticed in the crowd and how I absorbed it.” Channeling the personal experience into her latest short film, Face in the Crowd, taken from her M+B- and Lehmann Maupin-exhibited show of the same name, the artist allows viewers to witness the before and after of one of her saccharine-coated, Golden Era-indebted photographs. The melodramatic clip––shown here for the first time––has echoes of the famous last scene in Fellini's 8 ½ and sees 30 Rock actress Elizabeth Banks play an all-American beauty observing a cast of exhibitionist characters before finding herself thrust among them. “Every time I'm in New York I'll have a moment like this,” says Prager. “The second you leave your house you are confronted with a crowd. The choice you have is to either let it swallow you up, or use it as inspiration.” 

Can you tell us a bit more about how the film came about?
Alex Prager: I was dealing with a very visceral reaction to public speaking––stage fright––something I didn't know I had until I was suddenly confronted with an audience. I've always had a strong interest in crowds; I had been wanting to shoot crowds for years, but I wasn't trying to just re-enact crowds that we've seen before, I was trying to create a staged world for these crowds to live in. I wanted to construct crowds that brought the feel of the cinematic, a manufactured world, and meld them with reality. 

How do you cast the picture-perfect scenes?
AP: I use my friends, people I found in cafés or on sidewalks, as well as go through casting companies to find professional extras. My sister was the only person who was in every single crowd shot dressed as a different character. She is the Where's Waldo in Face in the Crowd.

What was the last crowd you encountered?
AP:
I went to Art Basel in Switzerland a few weeks ago because the exhibition was being shown with Lehmann Maupin at Art Unlimited. I did a panel discussion for the Salon Sessions. These things always feel a bit overwhelming before I go on stage, and then gradually, as I look out and start to notice individuals, it becomes less and less intense.

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Spotlight

Thomas Struth: Imagineering

The German Art Photographer Ventures Into Sites of Scientific and Creative Endeavor

Strangely unpeopled pictures of Disneyland, California, nestle up against images of a research and medical facility in Berlin and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in this series from Thomas Struth. The photographer turned his penetrating eye to these places of human invention to try and probe a question that has been on his mind for the past few years: “Why do large groups of people agree more easily on finding scientific, creative or technological solutions than in the political or social fields?” Struth is internationally acclaimed for his images—from street scenes to architectural photographs, family portraits to troops of tourists captured gazing at the masterpieces in the Museo del Prado—and has had major exhibitions of his work displayed at MoMA, MOCA and London’s Whitechapel gallery. “The absence of people is to highlight that it was created by the human imagination. I wanted to photograph the evidence of what people had once only imagined in their heads, which then materialized in one way or another,” he says of shooting today's beguiling group of pictures. “They are waiting for people to enter the frame.” 

Thomas Struth runs at the Marian Goodman Gallery January 10—February 22

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Spotlight

For Ann

Lawrence Weiner Narrates Director Erik Madigan Heck's Poignant Farewell to Ann Demeulemeester

With feet planted in the shallows of the Pacific Ocean, American photographer and filmmaker Erik Madigan Heck captures the rolling waves of Venice Beach, California, in today’s Super 8 tribute to Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester. Entitled The Sea, the meditative short features a narration by artist Lawrence Weiner, whose baritone recital of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Marianne Moore’s “A Grave” adds a tender note to a collaboration started in 2011. “I had made four films in the past as gifts to Ann and this seemed like the appropriate finale to that series,” says Heck, who has shot for Comme des Garçons, Valentino and Mary Katrantzou. “The pieces came together in the past few months, coincidentally just as Ann announced her departure from fashion.” Heck first approached the post-minimalist vanguard Weiner to pose for him wearing Demeulemeester’s Fall 12 collection for his “Artist As Muse” series for A Magazine Curated By, connecting the iconic Antwerp Six designer with one of her favorite artists. The New York-based photographer later captured Weiner’s mural “Iron & Gold in the Air Dust & Smoke on the Ground” in his third film for Demeulemeester. “Ann showed me that fashion could function as an art form,” explains Heck, founder of publications Nomenus Quarterly and the forthcoming No Photos Please. “Growing up in Minneapolis, Lawrence had a large text mural on the side of the Walker Art Center, which we drove past on my way to school. It was one of the first works of art that I internalized daily before I even understood it as art.” And what will Demeulemeester fill her time with now she has departed her beloved career. “I love my gardens,” she says. “They are alive, so there is always something to do.”

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