Art & Design » Inside the Artist’s Studio
Inside the Artist’s Studio
Rachel Zoe and Alex Israel, “on set.”

Inside the Artist’s Studio

Artist Alex Israel's celebrity video portraits.

“Today, the portrait is the celebrity interview, and the great portraitist may be Oprah,” says Alex Israel, a Los Angeles–based artist whose “video portraits” of the famous go on view this month at New York’s Reena Spaulings gallery ( In his second solo show, the 29-year-old—best known for installations made of items rented from Hollywood prop houses—offers his take on such disparate celebs as Rachel Zoe, Larry Flynt, and Vidal Sassoon. “I’m attempting to achieve a portrait of each subject, a likeness in the most classical sense,” Israel says. Securing his subjects through friends’ connections, Israel interviews them on a talk-show set meant to reference TV chats and L.A.’s red carpet culture. But Israel pursues no follow-ups to the often wacky answers his seemingly banal questions elicit. (“Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat?” he deadpans to Christina Ricci.) To his question “What is your favorite cult film?” rocker Marilyn Manson replies: “The Jim Jones massacre. Was that filmed?” Only by going off message, Israel says, and departing from their carefully crafted personas, do celebs reveal something of their true selves. His 6-to-15-minute shorts will run at the gallery and then on and “Seeing someone in a different way,” he says, “can be resonant and magical.”

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