Zigi Ben-Haim, Formation in Paper, series - F-129, 1978, Paper, Gauze, and Matte Medium, 104.6X106.7 cm
During the 1970's, after completing his studies, Zigi Ben-Haim arrived in Soho, New York, where he resides and works till this day. Being an immigrant distorts the personal image of reality, a state of mind that motivates the search after one's own roots. In this series of works from the 70's, Ben-Haim emphasized the presence of the absence at the core of its existence, where only the traces of the process can be evident and experienced. Ben-Haim demonstrates this by the act of pulling ropes which lay between layers of pieces of paper. The discarded paper was collected from the industrial neighborhood, where he lived and worked; newspapers, brown paper and scrap papers disposed from sewing factories, were mounted in picturesque compositions stacked one on top of the other, holding the ropes that eventually were pulled with force. This action left tracks which cut through the layered paper and left deep linear slits in the works themselves.
The dynamic energy of the rope becomes the manifestation of its absence -the quest for identity is present in the process. As Ben-Haim stated "The process, which realizes the work, is composed by stages of construction, pulling and reduction. The rope is an allegory to an earthquake and the cracks that follow it. Also symbolic to the marks that are left by the accumulation of knowledge in people." The ropes in Ben-Haim's works are linked to the power and violence of nature.
The 70's were turbulent years in the art world, minimalism flourished. However in contrast to artists of the time, Ben-Haim was using minimalism as a tool not as a goal. Many art critics noted the importance, originality and innovation of Ben-Haim's art. Among them, Yigal Zalmona who wrote in 1977 on Ben-Haim "His courage to change a course of action is what secured for him a prestigious position among forefront artists in the USA." The art critic Joan Marter, a contributor to ARTS Magazine, affiliated him with the tradition of "White on White" as part of the motto "less is more" that began with Malevich's painting from 1918.
Zigi Ben-Haim is considered to be one of the main and innovative artists that were concerned with the mark of body gesture on paper, and a leader of a new method of sculptural drawings that encompass layers of history and memory.
"The 70's are the foundation of my work till today. The cultural transition is manifested in the tracks carved in the layers of the waste paper collected. A material that in itself represents the history of a culture" – Zigi Ben-Haim