We’re fans of artist Alex Israel. It may in part be due to the fact that we’re surfers here at Global Graphica. Israel’s art draws heavily on his own experience as a surfer.

There’s a large top-floor gallery devoted to Israel’s artwork at the Marciano Art Foundation’s (M.A.F.) massive, museum-like collection in Los Angeles. We were there last week for another artist’s show put on by the mega-gallery Gagosian, which has been using M.A.F.’s huge ground-floor exhibition space for a while. We snuck up to the top floor where the Marciano permanent collection is on view and stumbled into Israel’s work.

Israel’s paintings and sculptural objects distill some essential underlying, highly-personal aesthetic essence of the surfing experience — the culture, the ocean, nature, the accoutrements and gear, coastal lifestyle, and, most pointedly, the waves, which are the true stars of surfing. But forget all the visual cliches one might expect based on surfing’s century-long tradition of pop-cultural tropes and stereotypes. These are, thankfully, absent, and not part of Israel’s vision.

Two stand-put works, pictured here, are “Sky Backdrop” and “Self-Portrait (Wetsuit).” The former is a massive abstract canvas. The latter is a hardened wetsuit displayed on a plinth as if filled in by the human form, mannequin-like, as if worn by an invisible body, headless, handless and footless.

The painting and the wetsuit are companion pieces, both painted in the same blue-sky and dusty-pink hues, evoking a bright Southern California dawn on a summer day, when the sun streams through at a low angle and casts pastel-tinted light onto thin clouds, like a decorative balm writ large on the atmosphere.

The gallery is mostly filled with many of Israel’s bold “wave” paintings for which he is perhaps best known. But “Sky Backdrop” and “Self-Portrait (Wetsuit)” stray from the formula into more magical, evocative territory. By far these are our favorite pieces from the artist.

1 Comment

  1. I really like your blog posts and look forward to seeing more.
    Alex Israel’s paintings and sculptures are based on his own experience as a surfer. He uses his experience to create pictures that are highly personal and reflective of the surfing culture he loves.
    This is great content that I will need to mention on our blog

    Thank you
    Juan Miller – Crosserx.com


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