Israel said he doesn’t want Infrathin to be constrained within an art context. “It might just be a T-shirt. Or a hat. They don’t necessarily have to be art—they can exist just outside of that frame, and get touched, and get dispersed in a different way,” he said.
He likened the line to Duchamp’s “rotoreliefs
,” one sort of the little tchotchkes the artist used to sell—colored disks that someone could place on the needle of a phonograph and watch spin. They were made by Duchamp, but they were not actual artworks—unusual for an artist known for “saying everything is art, or anything can
be,” Israel said.
“For him to say, ‘Oh that isn’t art’—it’s kind of a powerful gesture,” he said.
This distinction—the space between objects that were art and objects that were not art—is one interpretation of what Duchamp meant by “infrathin.” As Israel put it, it’s “the imperceptible difference between two identical things,” such as a T-shirt that is a T-shirt and a T-shirt that’s a ready-made. One has been transformed into art and the other has not.
The works in the clothing line are still untransformed, but that’s not the case with all of Israel’s more accessible output. It’s tempting, for example, to place SPF-18 in the “non-transformed” bucket, as it is an earnestly made, straight-faced entry into the canon of coming-of-age beach cinema. And, when watched with no knowledge of its creator, it’s a hang-ten success by those parameters. But it’s actually a Trojan horse full of Alex Israel artworks—a distillation of his practice, presented to the unknowing as a teen drama on Netflix.