Comments/Context: As we are photography collectors, we are constantly trying to put contemporary work in some kind of historical context, looking for connections to figures and influences from the past that will inform our understanding of what we're seeing now. As a result, I found it nearly impossible to see Alex Prager's new body of work without being immediately drawn back to Cindy Sherman's untitled film stills from the late 1970s; the similarities and echoes are pretty striking.
Prager's staged portraits of California women are full of saturated colors and an exaggerated retro melodrama. Her models have been styled with dated wigs, bright red lipstick, and obvious fake eyelashes, covered in thick make-up and dressed in vintage polyester. They stare vacantly beyond the picture plane, resigned to the film noir tragedy that is about to occur, or tightly wound but trying to stay calm, struggling to protect their vulnerabilities; the cinematic role playing runs the gamut from coolly passive to wearyingly indifferent.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Through February 20th
Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011