Alex Prager, Part One: The Mountain - Lehman Maupin, London

14 February 2022

We were delighted to visit Alex Prager, Part One: The Mountain, a show of new work by artist Alex Prager, in the latest exhibition at Lehman Maupin London. It is notable that these works feature a return to portraiture, something that she worked more with early in her career. 

Prager says about the exhibition ‘This is the first time I was interested in going back to photography in such a straightforward way, as I haven’t used portraiture since early in my career. In recent years I’ve been so entrenched in creating films, or writing screenplays. The idea of going backwards to where I started felt really confusing, but the desire wouldn’t go away.’

Alex Prager Part One The Mountain Lehman Maupin London

Its title, Alex Prager, Part One: The Mountain, is highly symbolic, with the idea of the mountain as referenced throughout literature, religion, and psychology as a place of revelation or reckoning.  If we have found ourselves metaphorically on the mountain over the course of the past two years, Prager’s newest body of work prompts us to imagine what the world will look like when we finally come back down.

Prager states that the inspiration for The Mountain came from a desire to examine the myriad emotional states we have all recently experienced. Conceived as psychological portraits, these images visualise a private moment that is understood universally.

Alex Prager Part One The Mountain Lehman Maupin London

As both a photographer and filmmaker, Prager is known for her elaborately staged scenes that capture a moment frozen in time, inviting the viewer to complete the story. An uncanny, dreamlike mood is heightened by use of saturated colours that recall technicolor films, as well as the mysterious or inexplicable happenings she often depicts. 

Prager’s immersive, large-scale photographs of crowds are among her best-known work the artist’s newest series are rendered on a smaller, more intimate scale. Part One: The Mountain features a series of stripped-down Americana portraits that capture the artist’s subjects in the midst of intense inner turmoil. 

Alex Prager Part One The Mountain Lehman Maupin London

Hyperreal details such as the signatures on the cast of a high school football player, firmly locate Prager’s images in the real world and belying the sense of the surreal.

In High Noon a traditionally styled cowboy is seen falling to his knees in a scrubby, lifeless landscape, his revolver flying out of his hand towards the sky. The look on his face is difficult to decipher, and it is unclear whether his expression is one of despair and anguish or joy and release. 

Alex Prager Part One The Mountain Lehman Maupin London

Another image in the series, Dawn, features a contemporary female cherub, dressed only in white socks and earrings. The cherub’s arms and legs are outstretched, and she appears to be flying through the sky, but again the viewer cannot determine whether she is ascending in a state of elation or falling harshly back to earth. 

Alex Prager Part One The Mountain Lehman Maupin London

Each image in the series occupies similarly ambiguous territory, leaving space for the viewer to interpret each scene and draw their own narrative conclusions.

Alex Prager Part One: The Mountain is at Lehman Maupin London until 5 March

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