You might be familiar with Bret Easton Ellis’s prose from his suspenseful American Psycho, or perhaps Less Than Zero, his scathing first novel about L.A. excess. If you’re in Los Angeles, you may have also seen it emblazoned on the side of a billboard along Sunset Boulevard. Set in all caps against a stock image of a pink and orange sunset, the missive reads “IF YOU DON’T LIKE ME UNFOLLOW ME.”
The billboard is an extension of (and advertisement for) the author’s first foray into art: a collaboration with artist Alex Israel, who has been friends with Ellis for years. The show–which opened with a start-studded party over Oscars weekend at Gagosian Beverly Hills–delves deep into the city’s psyche with a series of super-sized paintings.
The laser-printed canvases feature quintessential images of L.A.–pools, palm trees, tennis courts–chosen by Israel. Ellis penned the flash fiction–pithy vignettes on the double lives of people in L.A. “In Los Angeles I knew so many people who were ashamed that they were born and not made,” reads one, over a backdrop of pink terrazzo. Another, set against the L.A. cityscape, reads: “I’m going to be a very different kind of star.”
“It was like prose writing but knowing sentences were going to be surrounded by lots of questions,” Ellis told The Guardian about the process of creating the work. “They suggest an invisible world that isn’t there.” Meant to look like the opening credits of a feature film, the canvases were fabricated by Israel and a team at Warner Bros. with an inkjet printer.
The works follow a long tradition of L.A. artists making text-based work, like John Baldessari (Israel is his former intern), Ed Ruscha, and Barbara Kruger, just to name a few. Still, they’re unmistakably current; Ellis’s texts describe an L.A. that exists in this very moment. Case in point: “The Uber driver rolled across an opulent stretch of Melrose hoping to be noticed but worried that he looked as blank as his headshot.”
Alex Israel/Bret Easton Ellis is on view at Gagosian Beverley Hills through April 23.