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Alex Prager's first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. opens at the Corcoran Gallery of Art
A guest views photographs by Alex Prager at the reception for Alex Prager's "Face In The Crowd" art exhibition at Corcoran Gallery of Art on November 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. Larry French/Getty Images/AFP.

WASHINGTON, DC.- On November 23, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design opens Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd, an exhibition of forty photographs and four films by the renowned Los Angeles artist. For 10 years, Prager has staged imaginary scenes for her camera—dream worlds in Technicolor, rife with tension and melodramatic fictions. Deftly blending archetypes from post-war America, her images have re-enacted and burlesqued media portrayals of women, drawing from classic Hollywood movies, fashion advertising, and icons of documentary photography. Face in the Crowd debuts Prager’s latest series by the same title—elaborately-staged crowd scenes, both poignant and revelatory—alongside earlier photographs and video works.

Featuring large-scale photographs of people assembled in congested public spaces such as an airport terminal, lobby, beach, and movie theater, Face in the Crowd is the artist’s most ambitious and complex series to date. Blurring the line between fiction and reality, Prager directed the actions of hundreds of costumed actors on specially constructed sets. Densely detailed and shot from seemingly impossible vantage points, they enact psychological narratives of private and public revelation, repulsion, fear, personal safety, and the desire for basic human interaction. This series was created especially for the Corcoran’s exhibition, which is organized by Kaitlin Booher, assistant curator of photography and media arts.

“I’m fascinated by the experience of being involved in other people’s lives accidentally,” Prager has said, noting that her work has been influenced by time spent in busy cities such as New York and London. “Crowds have always been an interest of mine. It may look like a sea of people, but there are so many interesting stories, all colliding silently.”

The stories of the various characters within these crowds culminate in a new film, featuring actress Elizabeth Banks. Together, the film and the photographs uphold a portrait of the individual within the complexity of the larger crowd. Prager's focus on this dynamic can be traced to specific influences: silent films like Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times; photographers Martin Parr, Garry Winogrand, Bruce Gilden, and Helen Levitt; the darkness and the humor from Roy Andersson's film Songs from the Second Floor; and the well-known children's books Where's Waldo? Throughout Face in the Crowd, each character maintains their own agency within their cinematic circumstances. In exploring the notion of identity and the performative aspects of public life, Prager has created a universe where the crowd that gathers is the true spectacle.

Face in the Crowd is presented at the Corcoran alongside a selection of the artist’s earlier photographs, as well as her videos Despair (2010), La Petite Mort (2012), and Sunday (2010).

Alex Prager was born in 1979 in Los Angeles, California, where she lives and works. A self-taught artist, she was inspired to take up photography after seeing the color images of William Eggleston. Her work has been exhibited worldwide, most prominently in Alex Prager: Compulsion (2012) at FOAM in Amsterdam, and in New Photography 2010 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Prager has been recognized with the London Photography Award (2006) and the FOAM Paul Huf Award (2012), among other honors. Her editorial work has been featured in Vogue and W magazine, and her short film Touch of Evil, commissioned by The New York Times Magazine, won a 2012 Emmy Award. Prager’s work is represented in the collections of major museums including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.

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November 21, 2013

Alex Prager's first solo museum exhibition in the U.S. opens at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

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