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Compulsion

Alex Prager explores drama and death through new eyes in her upcoming exhibition

by Karen Day in Culture on 20 March 2012

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Since exhibiting "Week-End"—her last solo show at NYC's Yancey Richardson Gallery in 2010—photographer Alex Prager has been busy at work, but mostly with projects outside her own personal endeavors. Whether shooting the 1960s-inspired Missoni for Target campaign, villainous celebrities for the New York Times' annual Hollywood issue, or lending her talents to Bottega Veneta's "The Art of Collaboration" campaign last spring, Prager keeps her signature cinematic style at the forefront of her work while successfully bringing to life a new vision for each commercial and editorial assignment she takes on.

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Prager's work returns to gallery walls next month, in a new solo show called "Compulsion". Simultaneously taking place in New York, London and Prager's hometown of LA, the three-city exhibition will include an array of photos that reflect her interest in the emotion expressed solely through a person's eyes, and the powerful foundation they provide for provoking mystery. The eyes show how the young photographer has evolved since "Week-End" without departing entirely from her penchant for heightened drama and voyeuristic compositions. In "Compulsion", the eye close-ups also allude to the anonymous characters found within her tragic scenes, titled like newspaper reporting, such as "1:18pm, Silverlake Drive" or "11:45pm, Griffith Park".

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This strong interest in emotive eyes is perhaps inspired by the intense baby blues actress Bryce Dallas Howard worked for Prager's camera in her short film "Despair", several stills of which were exhibited at MoMA as part of their "New Photography 2010" group show. "Compulsion" will feature a new short film as well, one that also toys with the idea of death. "La Petite Mort"—a French phrase for orgasm—stars actress Judith Godrèche, who is, according to a description of the film, "experiencing the boundaries of her body and those of this world".

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A soft-spoken self-taught artist who fell into photography after a little soul-searching and a life-altering trip to the Getty Museum (where she came across the work of William Eggleston) just a decade ago, Prager has since become an exciting and integral part of contemporary art. Her latest series, combined with her commissioned projects, really showcases her growth within her chosen medium and her ability to constantly push herself in new directions.

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"Compulsion" opens 5 April and runs through 19 May 2012 at Yancey Richardson Gallery (NYC), then follows with openings at M+B (LA) and Michael Hoppen Contemporary (London).

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