‘Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd’ at Lehmann Maupin

Installation view at 540 West 26th Street. (Courtesy Lehmann Maupin)

Installation view at 540 West 26th Street. (Courtesy Lehmann Maupin)

Alex Prager’s Face in the Crowd, an immersive, three-channel video, is a delightfully weightless feat of engineering: Synecdoche, New York meets Life of Brian (specifically the scene in which Brian’s would-be disciples obediently cry out, “Yes! We are all individuals!”). The settings—a beach, a stadium, a courthouse, a main street—and the costumes create a hipster–Norman Rockwell-style Anywhere, USA, with pasty skin, cigars, superannuated Pepsi logos and a deflating beach ball in the colors of the Irish flag. The story, conveyed in brief confessional monologues and a few silent nods from a cast that includes a striking teenage boy from Guadeloupe, a middle-aged Latin American, a fat man with a lisp talking about a girlfriend who “used to swim with Esther Williams,” a much-made-up elderly divorcée and Elizabeth Banks—the only professional actor—as a former tap-dancing latchkey kid, is neither here nor there, serving in true Hollywood fashion only as an armature. The pleasure is in the mechanics: The banal observation that every member of a crowd has his or her own story becomes a roller-coaster special effect as the camera moves in and out; and when, at one point, the crowd freezes, notice the blonde trying not to laugh as Elizabeth Banks, the most individual of the individuals, slips past.

(Through Feb. 22, 2014)

‘Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd’ at Lehmann Maupin