Israel’s Self Portrait exemplifies the artist’s engagement with the Los Angeles aesthetic where Hollywood’s emphasis upon imagery and appearance extends far beyond the studios and reaches deep into the culture of the city. Israel’s connection with the industries that drive L.A. is apparent in every aspect of the work: from its conceptualisation through to its final form. The work itself is made from bondo and fibreglass- materials which are used in the production of cars and surfboards, and therefore emblematic of the city. The resulting artwork is an image of the artist within an outline of the artist’s profile.
The artist explains that growing up in L.A. he has always associated the word ‘studio’ primarily with film, rather than artistic, production and indeed the artwork itself was made in the artist’s studio on the production lots of the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank. On the reverse of each work in the series Israel has stamped Warner Brother’s trademark and the image on the front of this Self Portrait shows Israel carefully drawing out the production company’s label within the frame of his profile, drawing the two studios and their respective industries even closer together until they become indistinguishable. Israel’s profile becomes a literal frame through which the film industry is observed.
Self Portrait is a manifestation of the artist’s keen awareness of branding, with the artist’s profile reduced to the status of a logo. Israel claims he was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s own logo, which began with the face of the director and then morphed into a simplified profile. The artist used a computer-generated process to transform his image into a graphic logo that is displayed at the end of each episode of his subversive interview series As it Lays. He explains that he then became interested in the logo as a portrait and identifier, using it first as his Facebook profile picture, and then as an artwork in itself, leading to his series of self-portraits. Israel has declared himself intrigued by the ‘shorthand’ of these images, which function as a symbol of his own personal brand.
The artwork is hence an analysis of fame, another crucial factor in contemporary L.A.: the piece is born out of and reliant upon the artist’s own celebrity and thus cannot exist distinct from his fame.