Alex Israel Accessorizes a Chosen Land

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Published April 5, 2010

Life is a highway—especially if you’re from Los Angeles, like artist Alex Israel. It also seems that life is beautiful, especially if you’re looking at it through tinted glasses. “What’s more beautiful than driving up PCH [Pacific Coast Highway] with the sunshine and the ocean?” Israel asked at the launch party for his newly-minted Freeway Eyewear collection at The Smile on Saturday. The MFA candidate at the University of Southern California says that his are accessories with loftier aspirations, “I see sunglasses as the symbol of Southern California: they’re objects that change the way we see things, and that’s an interesting way of thinking about about art.”  

Each style was named after a freeway in LA, “to literally represent the landscape,” Israel explains.  “For example, the 110 is a bit more conservative style. It’s named after the freeway that goes to Pasadena, which is a more conservative part of the city. The 15 is a more retro style, kind of Rat Pack, and that’s the freeway that goes to Las Vegas.” Israel’s collaborators on the line embody other Southern Californian histories: photographer Anthony Friedkin, who’s worked with the likes of Dogtown and Z-boys; bicoastal UK-to-LA transplant and DJ Harley Viera-Newton modeled; graphic designer John Van Hamersveld, the man behind the Endless Summer film posters, did the logo.

The narrative goes further with Israel’s Roughwinds, an online video series that sees the sunglasses worn in a Thunderbird driving through Beverly Hills or going to a California State Mission in Santa Barbara. With no dialogue, the series “abstracts the genre” of the disillusioned ghosts of youth who moving through Los Angeles. Israel explains, “From the writing of Brett Easton Ellis to ‘90210’ to ‘The Hills’ to ‘The O.C,’ I was interested in taking a look at that genre that has ingrained in our collective unconscious.” That’s another lens.

FREEWAY EYEWEAR IS AVAILABLE AT THE SMILE, LOCATED AT 26 BOND STREET, NEW YORK. PHOTO BY KELLEY HOFFMAN.