Alex Israel & Bret Easton Ellis

Art Free
1 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

1 out of 5 stars

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It should have been a match made in heaven. Take one artist, one writer, both LA socialites, both with eyes set beadily on the shallowness and excess of Tinseltown, and get them to collaborate. But Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis have managed something quite remarkable in this exhibition at Gagosian: they’ve cancelled out each other’s talents entirely.

The pair’s working method is simple. Israel provides the imagery, having bought it on stock photography websites. Ellis writes passages of text: glib, nihilistic statements that might be said by the self-obsessed actors, stockbrokers and Ivy League students that populate his novels. The combined results are executed at billboard scale by a team of scenery painters at Warner Bros. The two pieces on display here have been hung in the windows, so that to walk inside the gallery is to be met with an empty, white space, and all there is to see is the film studio’s logo stamped on the backs of the canvases.

Yes, guys. We get it. Behind the surface of Hollywood there is nothing, yadda yadda yadda. But here’s where they’ve gone wrong. Ellis’s faux-banal prose works in books such as ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘American Psycho’ because over the course of hundreds of pages, through sheer volume, he manages to demonstrate how soul-corroding the worlds of consumerism and privilege can be. But here, in these throwaway little snippets, it amounts to nothing, certainly not atop images specifically chosen for their blandness. There’s no damnation, no critique – Israel and Ellis are involved in a project that packs the same artistic punch as a post-colonoscopy fart. Which, hanging in the windows of a blue-chip commercial gallery among the glossy boutiques and car dealerships of Mayfair, is a really embarrassing look.


By: Matt Breen


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