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5 Photography Exhibitions to See This Fall
Aperture Foundation

Alex Prager: La Grande Sortie

 

Lehmann Maupin, 201 Chrystie Street, New York
Through October 23, 2016

 

Through a synthesis of photography, film, and performance, Alex Prager’s third major solo show at Lehmann Maupin considers the fraught relationship between artist and audience. At the center is Prager’s eponymous film La Grande Sortie (2015), commissioned by the Paris Opera Ballet, which dramatizes the famed prima ballerina Émilie Cozette’s anxious return to the stage after an “unexplained hiatus.” The audience—populated by veteran performers of the company—is the subject of multiple still images reproduced as archival pigment prints. Like much of the Los Angeles–based artist and filmmaker’s most recognizable work, this exhibition reflects on aspects of staging, crowd dynamics, and the assumption of roles. Focusing on sections of the audience who are indicated by their location, the film portrays what appears to be a cross-section of “types” in the crowd: the young, the elderly, the single, the enthralled, the bored. The cinematic artifice in Prager’s photographs borrows heavily from Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills but is equally informed by William Eggleston’s striking use of color and sense of portent in the ordinary. Known for her lush, almost cartoonish images of Hollywood screen types and richly stylized mise-en-scènes, here Prager casts her subjects in a more tenebrous light, and inhabits a kind of twilight zone between life and affect.