In an age of gratuitous image-editing and fake news, it can be difficult to distinguish artificiality from reality. The contemporary experience is disorientating; saturated with visual and textual messages spread through marketing, news and social media. With each story claiming to present verified versions of the truth, identifying the facts becomes a complex task.
The meticulously staged photographs and films of Los Angeles-based artist Alex Prager (b. 1979) revel in this confusion, using manipulation to challenge perceptions of certainty and fiction. A recent series, on display at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong, uses scale and dimension to highlight the palpable artifice of its own creation.
These latest works build on the theatrical narrative potential of the practitioner’s previous projects, as shown in the featured See’s Candies, Payless, Supercuts 1. By disrupting traditional formal and technical controls – including perspective, cropping and layering – the artist provides an unashamed counterpoint to the assumed naturalism of the medium. Shots are captured from impossible viewpoints and unrelated scenes are combined to create incongruent, unconceivable wholes. By making the viewer acutely aware of the act of production, the collection invites reflection upon the way observation is manipulated in the digital age.
Prager modifies the sizes of works throughout the entire creative process – from creation to installation. The motif established in Hand Model, a blown-up depiction of a woman’s outstretched hand, is such an example, which is repeated throughout the show. The piece refers to the unrealistic cropping of images in the advertising and fashion industries, and appears both in miniature as a prop in Star Shoes and as a three-dimensional sculpture protruding from the gallery wall. This playful use of proportion creates multiple layers of meaning, examining the shifting importance of distributed materials