The Pulsating Room
Nadav Weissman’s exhibition, Folding Scenery, is a multi-layer installation of plywood sheets and digital projections snaking along the gallery walls and protruding into its space. Like a cut-and-pasted folded landscape, this jigsaw puzzle of physical and organic parts takes its forms from natural environments and the human body; creating a topographic view of invented territories. […]
The Slave Age
Following a global apocalypse, individuals from around the country gathered en masse for what appears to be an endless caravan, a procession without a clear purpose or destination–perhaps the sole reason for action in a hollow space that rejects any interpretation. Disdain for the notion that, within this huge, stifling order, someone–a person or a […]
Take Me Out of Here
Curator: Irena Gordon We step into a landscape which is an interior, a hidden space whose walls have been breached, revealing it in all its familiarity and strangeness. The space is inviting, drawing us in with its tactile sensuality, its formal richness, and the interrelations between the various objects within it. As we go in […]
Site-specific installation at Dana Gallery, Kibbutz Yad Mordechai Birch, plywood and charcoal, video mapping animation, Variable dimensions.
Smadar Keren Text for “Slippery Slope”, Beit Uri and Rami Nehoshtan Museum, 2021 Two series of paintings from the past year are at the core of Shai Yehezkelli’s exhibition. `Star of Redemption,’ a grouping of four works, each with a flawed star at its center, and ‘Slippery Slope,’ a trio of paintings that feature […]
Ballade to the Double
“Ballade to the Double” 17.3.2022-9.7.2022 Curator: Rotem Zuta. Ballade to the Double draws the viewer into a Connecticut train ride filmed over the course of a year. All four New England seasons are projected simultaneously, sideby-side, in a way that transforms our usual experience of time and landscape. The journey is seen from the front […]
ART B AND B | 9-12 Nov. 2020
Monday at 8pm starts the “sleeping show” by “Protective Edge” group in the sleepy empty halls of the Tel-Aviv’s cultural institutions. You’re welcome to join us at Shaul Hamelech 19 BLV or watch the live streaming in the following link: https://vimeo.com/event/439630 ART B AND B From 9-12 November, the “Protective Edge” group undertakes renews action, […]
We are a Bound Family
“Tal Amitai: We are a Bound Family” | Tali Tamir
Between the “holly family” and the “bound family” separates, in the work of Tal Amitai, a safety belt and a slogan of the Ministry of Transportation.
Amitai attacks the question of the family – one of the central concepts in the Jewish culture and Israeli society, a concept that grows every year during the holidays and that is still a taboo – few, certainly in the field of plastic arts, have touched it on such a direct level.
Amitai moves around the “soft belly” of the family – the dinner table. She paints her father dipping in a soup bowl, floating between parsley crumbs. At his side her mother, immersed at the bottom of the bowl, under a pile of spaghetti in tomato sauce.
The mother and father are painted in a sleeping position, they might be floating or they might be dead.
Helpless they are positioned between the knife, spoon and fork appropriately set on the checkered tablecloth (the father) or on a floral oilcloth (the mother).The rules of the set table, the table manners and food, contain within them the entire family metaphor: not only the control means of the parents over the children through food and feeding, but also the predator-devoured relationships and the potential of destruction and oppression lurking, in every family, somewhere under the folds of the tablecloth and among the hidden layers of the subconscious. Cannibalism of inter-generation and inter-familial battle of power.
In a series of sculpted works done in the late 80’s and named “The family”, Daniel Zak portrayed the arbitrariness of the familial connection when he drew a thin metal line between a rancid drop of semen, undefined, and the image of a human fetus.
Amitai is much more blunt than he was: when she continues to walk on the thin line between the micro and the intended, she scatters kernels of rice (she actually paints the scattering of the kernels) on a Hebron marble plaque, found in almost every Israeli kitchen typical of the middle class, and from the kernel scattering the writing becomes clear: “We turned out fucked”.
The familial relationship mediated through the simple imagery of common food (which family does not eat rice and meatballs?) is revealed in its other facet and exposed as a complex and vulnerable system, seeping way beyond the daily chore of cooking.
Motifs of cannibalism, between parents and children, are known in the mythological dimension and we could mention the fear striking painting of Goya describing the god Saturn eating his sons. Amitai, in a Freudian-macabre spirit, more than a mythological one, turns the motif upside down and expresses death wishes and aggressive impulses directed at the parents. Amitai does not build a scenario of fear and terror but rather, confronts the myth of familial connection with games of chance and gambling like the Lottery and jackstraws: scattering the jackstraws is like scattering the human semen – random, arbitrary, uncontrolled – you need Lotto in life in order to win the big prize and in order to be born in the right family. “Luck is after you” – like in the slogan of the Lottery, quoted in one of the works.
Amitai gambles for luck out of the maze of the familial connection. She allows herself to untie the “safety belt” of the family and cast her own private lucky cards.
With Philistines | Avi Katz
Text for the exhibition “With Philistines”, Jule M. Gallery, Tel-Aviv, 2014
With Philistines (and in the exhibition: Samson [Self-portrait as], and also Self-portrait as a Happy Infiltrator): a declaration of ultimate otherness which is razor sharp and possesses the daring of a liminal painter, but is also crippled and even wide open to interpretation and castrated: the present absence of the beginning of the verse “Let me die”, as well as the echoes of these difficult times (many of the artworks in the exhibition were painted in the anguish of Operation Protective Edge) as well as an alternative reading that invokes the use of “philistine” as a moniker for those who show a crude contempt for intellectual and artistic values. Indeed, Yehezkelli's paintings offer a reversal of hierarchies that presume to distinguish between the proper manners of representation and the demonstrably outsider “bad painting”, which may affiliate him with that “omnivorousness” (to use the term coined by the sociologist Richard Peterson) – the highbrow crowd whose taste tends towards “everything…”
In his new paintings, Shai Yehezkelli continues to consistently develop a visual language of signs, which is multilayered, borrowed, and appropriated (from the The Birds' Head Haggadah to comic books and emoticons, from Stars of David to a cowboy with a cigarette) but also personal, veiled, and enigmatic. The viewer is invited on a journey of revelations that will somehow transform paint stains to shapes (the stain, claims Lacan, marks that which returns to the viewer from the painting, the presence of an object that cannot be seen). The act of painting celebrates a lively freedom of color and shape to the point of “excess” at times, but also presents its faltering and depletion.
In Yehezkelli's “presentation of 'self'” the painting becomes a chaotic container of sorts, into which conscious and subconscious forces are siphoned, in combinations riddled with irony and pathos (as a desperate attempt to produce emotion…). Yehezkelli's characteristic self portraits also have a deceptive nature, and rather than fixating self identity they are an expression of the dissolution of the identification of the “self”. The artist is an “entrepreneur of the self” (in the worlds of Svetlana Alpers). The multitude of self portraits (in the form of “self portrait as…”) expresses the game of changing masks, what marks the presence of the “act”, an “art occurrence” supposedly expropriated from the artist, an act that engenders a split of sorts between the portrait and the self that this portrait was supposed to transmit, and in fact embodies the dimension of failure to transmit the self that perhaps becomes “everyman” and at times “every Jew”…
This time, more than in the last exhibition, this carnivalesque art fair transgresses the boundaries of self that wallows in the pleasures of its despondency. From the introvert self to the world, to zeitgeist painting.
The works' titles do not “speak for themselves” but are a part of integrated art talk. Thus for instance, in the Monument for the Women of Shuja'iyya – a proposal for a monument of sorts, a woman lioness, an upside down IDF helmet that sprouts slivers of light, a noseless smiley, and another smiley that pops up in the layers of paint, winged like an angel of compassion from the top right, palm trees, Gaza-esque Guernicas (the junkyard of the global and Israeli history of art is not unknown to Yehezkelli). And next to it – The Picking of the Flowers – centralization in the hybrid figure and amorphous expansion into heaped chaos of signifiers that have multiple signifies: a bowed palm tree, a map that may also be a prayer shawl (Talit), a construction of an oriental landscape compressed in the left, a comb, an F bottle, and from the fauvist ground of amassed emoticons screams the death toll.
The two paintings of oriental sun, one happy and the other sad, imbue the exhibition space with a sort of atmospheric incense, suns which are eclipses, suns which are eyes, a watercolor pupil as a smiling face that will dissolve into an abstract stain in “sad sun”, where we find a happy palm tree … Onkelos from a bird's eye view that also resembles a palette, more than they exude life, these are disconcerting suns; the optimistic Platonist similitude between the sun and the eye, the metaphorical gaze at the sun as what leads to the purpose of the truth, a sublime step in the philosophical education ladder, is replaced by Georges Bataille who preaches to dare look at the anti-ideal, the dirty, with the blinding black sun, and like in the painting, the suns are also the eyeballs and the liquid is the tearing, the oozing, or the bleeding (this reoccurs in the painting Sunshine and Moisture and Self Portrait with Pogrom).
Pshat & Drash, drowners, a ship of fools, and a sail, a smiley wearing “a painter's hat”, a complicated hand, a floating piece of feces, a bird. An invitation to enter the “Pardes”.
(English translation: Maya Shimony)
The title of this series is 'YAD', which has a double meaning in Hebrew, 'yad' means 'hand' but also 'memorial'. The series was photographed in Peter Eizenman's holocaust memorial in the center of Berlin.
Gershuni approached couples visiting the memorial and asked to photograph them. Gershuni landed his camera always to the woman and asked her to take a photograph of himself with her partner (boyfriend or husband). Just before the woman snapped the photograph, Gershuni took the other man's hand, thus the photograph was taken while they were holding hands.
Yesterday's Sun – solo exhibition at Chelouche Gallery
10.05.12 – 23.06.12
Poet Wisława Szymborska, in an imaginary conversation with Ecclesiastes, challenges him with cunning shrewdness: “There's nothing new under the sun… But you yourself were born new under the sun. And the poem you created is also new under the sun, since no one wrote it down before you. And all your readers are also new under the sun, since those who lived before you couldn't read your poem.”
The series of photographs featured in Uri Gershuni's exhibition—in itself, a contemplation of the notions of newness and sun in their photographic context—lacks the reconciled innocence underlying Szymborska's statement. It is imbued with an antithetical despair, and its conclusions transpire on the verge of an abyss, as it were. Gradually, however, their proximity will be revealed.
The exhibition seems to be underpinned by the realization that the sun that shines on us is, in itself, rather ancient, and that in an irreversible process which cannot be altered, it will evolve within about five billion years to a star unable to produce warmth and light. Sharp fluctuations in temperature would cause the sun to shed its outer layers, forming a planetary nebula moving around the nucleus of the shrinking sun slowly cooling in space. The sun too will cease to exist.
There is no artistic medium like photography so inseparably tied with the sun. Its idiosyncratic language is distinguished by its dependence on natural astrophysical processes originating in sunlight. When these processes are imprinted in the chemistry of the photographic paper, the photograph transforms into a perfect melting pot between the technological and the living, a contact point between man and the stars, mediated by a light-registering apparatus. The act of photography is a desperate attempt to fish out something illuminated in an infinite universe, to leave a hint of our being; the camera as a box for capturing tiny physical occurrences, the “Pencil of Nature” as per the ever so accurate title by the pioneer of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot.
Gershuni's photographs appear as though they have been created in a world struck by a process of extinction, under a disappearing sun and its gradually waning light. His journey to the village of Lacock in Wiltshire, England—Talbot's hometown—which spawned these photographs, essentially calls to mind worshippers swarming holy sites on the eve of an apocalypse.
The photographs in the exhibition document Talbot's habitat as it appears in the present. Some of them contain objects and places which were the subject of the first photographs in history. Gershuni's new photographs blend with the memory of Talbot's photographs—especially the oriel window at Lacock Abbey, the earliest known surviving example of a photographic negative and a photogenic print—like a chemical collision between beginning and end. It is as though in Gershuni's fusion of his photographs with the memory of Talbot's photographs, we witness a nuclear occurrence, a catastrophe which melts epilogue into prologue, while everything between them burns and melts away.
Had the universe suddenly reversed the direction of its expansion, it would have turned backwards, toward the Big Bang, and disappeared anew into the void. Gershuni does exactly that: a deep despair with photography's ability to innovate and excite, as well as thoughts about the dying sun on which photography as a whole is dependent, have motivated him to embark on a journey back to the starting point, to the realms of the “Big Bang” that gave rise to the pristine act of photography, perhaps in an attempt to be swallowed up by it and disappear into a black hole.
To prove that only the moments in which things—universes, planets, or human beings—are born or die has any meaning, Gershuni proposes to erase and destroy everything ever photographed, except for the first photographs ever taken by man; to try to assimilate into them so as to experience the sense of revelation embodied in Talbot's work, which is still concealed in his photographs. Subsequently, one must die out with the sun, never to photograph again.
Much has been written about the “devalidation” of the photographic act in this overly mapped era which is inundated by images. It seems, however, that Gershuni not only laments the devaluation of photography; he also dares to do what other photographers don't: to catalyze and to be present at its very moment of execution, while voicing a great cry of despair.
Gershuni's journey to Lacock is like a pilgrimage to a shrine to experience or see something that Talbot saw, before the end comes. A closer look at what Gershuni saw there in the moments of truth, however, reveals a less terminal answer than we might have expected. Despite the morbidity and the attraction with cessation simmering in the black, grainy photographs on view, they secretly emanate a wonderful yet silent hope. The first photograph in the exhibition features Talbot's tombstone. While at first sight, it is an image which declares the death of the inventor of photography, and with him, perhaps, the death of photography as a whole, and as such it invokes a sense of bowing to dead ancestors, on second thought it is also a photograph featuring a sculptural object made of a durable material which symbolizes the death of a man, while the stone itself lives on.
Thus, in his very first photograph here, Gershuni declares the ability of a given substance to survive long after the materials from which our bodies are made. The series of images continues; From the dark surfaces of his photographs, trees, stone paths, ancient gates, bridges, tables, and latticed windows float out—an assortment of objects that existed before Talbot's time and continues to exist years after his death.
Do these photographs, despite the withering images of mildew and damp and the bubbling, burnt photographic paper, in fact symbolize survival, subsistence, attesting to Gershuni's secret belief in the chance to be saved? Perhaps even a belief in a form of new life after the end of days? If an object, a piece of furniture, a structure, or a plant, can survive and still leave an indelible impression of the person who created it or came in contact with it, even after the latter's death, can not an art work do the same?
Gershuni's renewed belief in photography's ability to form a memory, a material incarnation of a former life, erupts from his surprising photographs of a human figure—Mr. Kronnagel—whose gaze is penetrating and direct. While observing the photographs depicting objects – which are akin to an invocation of ghosts – is disturbing; knowing that they are unaware of us observing them, as if we didn't exist, and they are oblivious of us since they will long outlive us, Mr. Kronnagel is well aware of our presence; he knows that we breathe on the other side of the camera, hence he constitutes an image which is all a living, breathing, present presence, much more than the sacred past around him. Thus he deserves to leave behind photographic evidence of his existence.
Now behold the photograph of a vehicle moving swiftly in a field (perhaps it is an ambulance, hence an image of resuscitation?), implying more life within the desistence, life moving from here to there, eternally frozen by the camera. When has a photograph last elicited such basic excitement in its ability to intervene with the flow of time and treasure life in light?
Talbot and Gershuni are indeed absent from the photographs, because in their destructive encounter both have been annihilated, whether physically or metaphorically. But photographs of other people, akin to survivors from a disaster zone, bespeak a life found which is yet to be documented, and life yet to be documented is nonetheless a belief in something new under the sun.
Gershuni has fulfilled the most basic commandment of photography: to offer evidence of the photographer's journey, whether inward or outward, into the distance; to constitute proof of the photographer's discoveries and revelations, whose photographable texture he perpetuated for us. Had every person been given the unique chance to travel in time, his choice, whether to move forward or back, would greatly attest to his sources of curiosity, his beliefs, and his hopes. Gershuni chose to travel back in time to the nascent moment of the photographic medium, which is also the beginning of its expiration, hence a point of destruction. He plunged into a dark, suicidal crisis of faith that had taken over him, and looked straight ahead. He experienced within himself powerful moments of contradiction, a split between the believer and the heretic within him: Is there an “afterlife”? Is eternity photographable? Is there anything left in this expendable world worthy of being photographed? Is there a merciful Great Father capable of explaining our disappearance from the world virtually without leaving a trace? And if the moments of birth and death are the essence, is it not vital that we meet the propagator, who is supposed to die before us infront of our eyes, at the moment of his death?
Gershuni's photographs are like souvenirs from a voyage to the end of the world, taken by a believer who has lost his path and now tries to find it again. He has found it in the masturbation photograph: Even if it might appear like sacrilege, as defiance against “wasting of one's seed,” even if it celebrates the carnal, the flesh, the corporeal, the expendable, this photograph is nevertheless blended with a different spiritual sanctity, the sanctity of the blessing of the Sun and Sight: “One who sees the sun at its turning point, should say blessed is he who reenacts the works of Creation”. Because we are observing a new man before us, under the sun, in a moment of vitality.
Sometime in 1839—a temporal view which is emptied of meaning vis-à-vis infinity—Talbot exposed a negative to the sun. All of a sudden, light was rendered dark and black, while darkness transformed into whiteness. That Gershuni discovered under yesterday's sun.
A cycle of works by Gideon Gechtman , 1999
Herzliya Museum of Art, January-February 2000
Rehovot Municipal Art Gallery, May-June 2000
Mishkan Le'Omanut, Museum of art, Ein Harod, September-October 2000
As Walter Benjamin tells us in his lamentation of the gradual waning of experience, in the modern era death (and dying) has been removed from the perceptual world of the living, from the public sphere of the (bourgeois) community, through its increased isolation by means of hygienic and social procedures – to the point that the very thought of death has declined in omnipresence and vividness. Gideon Gechtman's works- by now a life work-confronts us (at its peaks, such as the present set-up) with that which we would rather evade.
From a certain point in time, death – the very experience of facing death – was posed as a source of authority underlying Gechtman's work, through re- activation of the notion of eternity (what is left of it, as a term). The current set – up is already a stage- like modeling of an experience endured, of the after-death – the death of someone who was crucially significant to his life as well as to his artistic work – by means of what is left: the indirect testimony, the waste, the remains, the secular relic.
The possible persistence of memory, and thus the very ability to experience the work beyond the formal context, assume the existence of a community possessing prior knowledge (a community which Gechtman indeed activated, for real, when raising funds for his son's medical treatment) – or a late, belated, belief in the ability to reconstitute a community based on shared experience (which is no longer the common experience which Zionist agenda, for instance, sought to engender, one of whose articulation is contained within `Yad Labanim`, the memorial room for fallen soldiers located on the other side of the wall).
Gechtman's work – whose components are to consolidate in the course of time into a total work of art – comprises concentric systems of formal hybridizations based on a metaphorical adoption of prevalent concepts from the field of genetics – reproducing-mutation-evolution – and their activation through the attributes of a local material culture (or to be more exact, through the surface embodying the ersatz-culture of the lower- middle class suburbia). Alongside the engagement with the material culture there lies the biographical artery – the axis of personal and familial fate, an institution which is the ultimate embodiment of reproduction and transformation relation- intersecting, in different modes, the chain of reproductions and mutations comprising the world of objects which is the material culture. At the thematic focal point of these concentric circles lies Gechtman's own body – an everyman whose heart contains an object without which he has no life – and next to it, from a certain moment on, the accompanying figure of his son Yotam – a reproduction both fine and flawed. The current cycle of works is a farewell, parting with the son as a life partner, and, in a sense, as the object and the primary, privileged addressee of his work as a whole.
In terms of artistic fate – and Gechtman operates within a framework where art is already in quotation marks – his works manifests a cross-breeding between the making of that which is still sculptural (in the traditional sense, in terms of the use of material, formal values, and the presence of the work-sculpture in the private or public sphere), and a pragmatic functioning in the manner of post-Duchampian kind of artist. Gechtman's typical artistic practice takes place in the twilight zone in-between sculpture shifted or fallen into the world of objects, the world of design and commodities, and a (ready-made) object pushed into situations of sculptural-like allegories. In most cases, it is still not an absolute objects materialized, for instance, in American art, which operates in reference to a quintessentially object-oriented culture. One of the causes of this “fall” lies in the world of material-substitutes which Gechtman – from the outset of his career – has been employing in an informed, yet never Camay or cute manner. Unlike natural (original) materials – material substitutes, embodying a partition, no longer allow processes of transfiguration, but only the immediacy inherent in production which eradicates the temporal dimension, like an industrial product, one directed for the gaze.
In this fall into the world of objects (and into the dimension of invitality and finality inherent in it), Gechtman's work partakes, as the echo speech of someone who is located at the margins, in the comprehensive process of modernist art's collapse into the theatrical – a state of affairs in which it has been immersed since the 1960s; one underlied by three modes of artistic production formulated during that decade in American art: Pop, Minimalism and Conceptualism. Gechtman's artistic œuvre was, from the outset, marked by quasi-popular hybridization and modification of aesthetic codes, devised at the “center” by these three trends, as well as by concurrent differentiated cases (such as Richard Artschwager, Robert Morris , and Marcel Broodthaers; Joseph Beuys is particularly significant withregard to structuring art as a personal myth in relation to an omnipresent horizon of death) – codes such as the use of hackneyed images derived from mass culture; repeated-modified application of serial models (and their violation or mutation); and reliance on quasi-research-minded modes of presentation and on work coefficients founded on non-visual models.
This possible historical unfolding of a discussion of Gechtman's work is not aimed at reconstructing its historical origins, but rather at indicating a principle nucleus of a work which may at times appear all-too-obvious – work concerned with exemplifying, by the means of a province-based individual, processes of constant cross-breeding, reproduction and mutation of cultural codes; processes occurring away from the code's “original” place of emergence. Within this context, we are concerned with modification of artistic codes – code fragments, to be more precise – that arrive, in gradually intensifying degrees of meditation, from a center where they emerge in their quintessentiality. In their transition to the periphery – in this case, to the Israeli lunar culture (a culture whose industrious documentor in photography may be Gilad Ophir) – they undergo a process of enfeeblement, and are fused to render electric hybridic combination. The pseudo-aesthetic characteristics (for we are concerned with adopted aesthetics originating in the “surface” of the lower-middle class, in its local sense) of Gechtman's work, with their inarticulateness or awkwardness , are derived from “lunar reflexivity” concerning his location here, in the shikum (public housing project), in the orient.
It is this paradoxical alertness to a collective state of sleep or numbness that produces the more radical aspect of his work, which may be dubbed “radical mediocrity”: a principle choice of averageness, possibly for the sake of survival; an act performed out of a servile acceptance of limitation, of weighing average beliefs and taste-conventions; an act which refuses to contain, as a defense against mauvais-foi, a potential of revelation (bliss).the `anywayish` reliance on Christian manifestation and emotional patterns – the figure of the Orant in the exhibition Exposure, the iconography of Deposition, and the polyptych structure of the works in the current cycle may also be perceived as derived from the same position.
The work Exposure presented as an exhibition in 1975 was a key event in Gechtman's oeuvre. In this total work – one of the first installation works presented in Israel – he installed a pseudo-documentary cycle of staged photographs, like a morality play of secular salvation modeled on a familiar iconographical formula of early Christian art. The installation , so the story goes, laconically presented a deconstructed process of marching toward a possible death and over coming it, albeit temporarily, through external intervention in the form of an object (a valve) implanted in Gechtman's heart. This key event was perceived as a gateway to a new awareness of subject-object relations and to a new type of hybridic existence of a person whose most charged organ – as far as the cliche goes – had become mechanized. The work also marked the early crystallization of the ongoing dialogue in his work between two antiseptic institutions, the hospital and the artistic space (the gallery, the museum)- two types of spaces which share several features: detachment, whiteness, silence(required there, and called for here), sterility. The current work, Yoyam, is already the story of a bitter defeat, taking place within the same kind of site – a hospital – which is no longer presented as a place of transformation (and redemption, as it were), but rather as one of disappearance.
Two years after Exposure (and the publication of a Self-Obituary which accompanied its closing) Gechtman embarked on an enterprise of composing a boundless, multi-organ work, appearing within a pseudo- conceptual framework entitled Mausoleum – a framework which gradually admits previously executed works as well. In a large-scale array, which thus far has not been exhibited in full ,entire bodies of work and discrete pieces are incorporated in diverse modes and manners. The objects themselves- at once banal and ritualistic, all deprived of potential depth or quality – rely (in terns of their means of production and mode of manifestation) upon craftsmanship and small industry, like those found in lower-middle class neighborhood-suburban “institutions”: the bank, the synagogue, the beauty parlor, the cemetery. Compounds extracted from the total array are exhibited in various contexts, at times transfigured. The constantly cumulating components of Mausoleum indicate a gradual process of shifting the early conceptual position by reinforcing the object category, a category of action congruent with that which had triggered many of the work: a labor of lamenting the loss of childhood (the realm of experience), the disintegration of sensation, the disappearance of layers of meaning, of quality, of value. The current work may be read as a real work of mourning masquerading as an artistic manifestation.
Gechtman's works – the objects produced for him by craftsmen – lack the power to be appealing. Their morphology is elementary, almost didactic. Many of them demonstrate a process of reification, a product of the hybridization acts, the most (aesthetically) conspicuous of which is the cross-breeding between two ostensibly unbridgeable positions: Constantin Brancusi's auratic practices (shaping and refining pristine materials), and Marcel Duchamp's tactics of impractice (illustrative-semantic-indicative modes of representation). Both positions, with their common point of departure (Eros, in one way or another: tactile-optical in one case, optical-semantic in the other), are brought here to a state of cul-de-sac and finality in relation to a horizon of petrifaction, inertia, decomposition (on the level of culture).
The group of Carts – perhaps the most pivotal within the comprehensive work array – maintains a clear ironic affinity to the modes of matter transformation and refinement developed by Brancusi; to the metamorphoses of a motif from one material realization to the next, where each materialization is tantamount to a leap forward in term of the sublimation of matter through its refinement. In Gechtman's case, the metamorphosis of the group of Carts – illustrating a metamorphosis from childhood to mourning (the first is improvised the way children devise things to play with, the second is already coated with marble-patterned formica, and the subsequent ones are made of unrefined synthetic marble cast with increasing degrees of bluntness) – leads, by way of inversion, the more condensed it becomes, to a growing discordance with regard to the original event. This discordance culminates in the near scream of the last Cart (including in the current cycle of works), that has reddened in color, covering the impression it was made in a single, undifferentiated flux of color-matter that had congealed. In the current group of works, the use of the ready-made – beauty parlor equipment acting as hospital equipment whose authoritative qualities it wishes to imitate – is polarized to its original application by Duchamp as a means for opening up, liberating the unconscious through an unplanned and indifferent encounter with a mass-produced object. Here, as in many other cases (possibly the majority of post-Duchamp instances), the ready made formula serves a theatrical set-up; its products become objects devoid of a revelatory potential, props on a stage of death.
As Gechtman once asserted, the principal motivation for starting this work process stemmed from a desire (of someone whose continued existence in permanently doubted) to convey to his son a certain “heritage” about his father through the sphere of objects by which he has been shaped. A decade after Exposure – at the beginning of his transition from the conceptual research-like period to a period of preoccupation with reification – Gechtman mounted an exhibition revolving around a large photograph of Yotam, his eldest son, still a little boy at the time, lying in his sick-bed. This image came to reinforce the shared fate between father and son, between the origin and the reproduction. The current array forms the dramatic, albeit restrained as always, culmination of Gechtman's œuvre. It was executed during the past year, during and after Yotam's death. The labor of lamenting Yotam is performed through the works, which frame an absence (every detail within them, and all of them together, as an installation), presenting a world that has at once been depleted of life, a place which is all 'after' and 'without'.
The current array is to be woven into Mausoleum, into which the work Exposure was likewise incorporated last year, when reconstructed with its accompanying soundtrack – an amplified recording of the artificial valve's beating. The soundtrack accompanying the present cycle of works – which wold form an additional sound accompanying Mausoleum – is that of rhythmical hammer beating in a videotape documenting an act of crushing and milling the letters spelling out the son's name into dust. The pathos, to the degree it is present in the work, resides in the urge (of someone who is outside the scope of faith) to create a set-up touching upon the symbolic; and this symbolic situation, more than being an alternative rite of passage, may signify a secular model of solidarity, of shared fate, under historical circumstances where the father-artist has at his disposal but heap of scraps with which to improvise: some recollections of modernistic sculpture, a cliché or two of secularized religiosity, a degenerate ready-made, plastic fruits, a museum.
Text by Moshe Ninio
This Way Or Another
The Installation consists of furniture, light bulbs, rope, drawings.
To Prague with Love
Ira Eduardovna | To Prague with Love
Solo exhibition at Cuchifritos gallery, NYC
curator: Sanna Almajedi
This piece was made during my two months residency at FUTURA in Prague, Czech Republic in 2013.
I grew up in Uzbekistan in the 80ies when it was still part of the falling Soviet Union. In 1987 my older sister, Victoria, participated in a program of correspondence between Soviet children and children from the “non-hostile” western countries (as Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries that were under Soviet occupation). She corresponded with a girl from Prague for about one year. The video examines the relationship between the children who unwillingly were representing their countries.
When I was in Prague I posted an announcement in the local newspaper, in search for the woman who was corresponding with my sister. Few people who had similar experiences of correspondence replied, but none of them was the one who wrote to Victoria. I interviewed four women about their experience of correspondence.
Each woman tells her personal story, adding a scripted part about being the one who corresponded with Victoria.
The video presents a desperate search for a physical confirmation of a personal fleeting memory within the context of global history. It starts as a documentary then it abruptly turns into a staged reality TV
Two Figures In A Field
January 10 – February 22, 2020
Opening Reception: Friday, January 10, 6–8pm
Artist Talk: Saturday, February 8, 2:30pm
Lesley Heller is pleased to present Two Figures in a Field, an experiential installation by the New York based, Israeli-born artist Tom Pnini. In this exhibition, Pnini—known predominantly for his films—has constructed an interactive installation comprised of two main elements The Set and The Vinyl Album, where the audience becomes an active participant.
The installation presents like a theatre stage, one that comes to life only when the viewer interacts with it. Pnini’s use of theatrical motifs enables him to act as puppeteer placing gallery visitors where they can be mesmerized by the illusion created by the work, while still being fully aware of its deception.
Entering the space, viewers engage with the set, comprised of 12 rows of shoulder-height partitions forming a series of maze-like corridors in the gallery. Advancing through the space, visitors begin to experience the installation. The partitions form a vast seascape rendered in blues and cutout wave shapes. The wave side of the installation is a tribute to sea travel—and to the myriad of reasons travelers have made journeys for millennia. It is a voyage as a tale; one of fame, romance, escape, and the unknown promises of a new land.
The vinyl album is a limited edition pressing conceived of, and produced by Pnini, featuring musician Hannah Lee Thompson performing songs dating from the 1800s which relate to the themes of water and fire. A record player is waiting in the space for visitors to play the two songs—Haul Away Joe, a sea shanty which tells the story of life-long adventure of a sea traveler, and The Two Orphans Waltz which references the Brooklyn Theatre fire on December 5, 1876 where 300 people were trampled to death trying to escape a fire that started during a performance. Both songs will also be performed live by Hannah Lee Thompson several times during the show.
Miniature theaters—creating a play within a play—are seen throughout the installation. An antique wooden radio holds within it a miniature set of the Brooklyn Theatre at the moment the tragic fire broke out. An old liquor cabinet installed in the gallery has also been transformed into an empty theatre showing only the set where a story of sea travel will unfold.
When visitors exit the space, the reverse side of the wave partitions form a landscape of fire. Rendered in rich yellows and oranges, the back of each wave cutout becomes a flame.
As visitors complete the journey from one side of the gallery to the other, they act as the absent protagonists of the two stories of the installation. With this double-feature of installation and performance—fire and water, two stories, two songs—activated by music and the participants, Two Figures in a Field becomes a story of the forgotten, met at the moment when the drama has ended and the curtain is just about to drop.
Tom Pnini (b. 1981, Israel) creates time-based works and large-scale installations. He has exhibited in museums and galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Toronto, Moscow, and Israel, including a 2012 solo exhibition at the esteemed Chelouch Gallery in Tel-Aviv. He holds a BED from Hamidrasha College (2008) and an MFA from Parsons School of Design at the New School (2010). He has received a CCA Video Art Fund (2012), a Dean’s Graduate Scholarship from Parsons (2009-10), and an Outstanding Artistic Excellence Award from Beit Berl College (2008). He lives and works in New York City.
UNTITLED, Miami beach 2018
Chelouche Gallery is pleased to present new works for Untitled Miami 2018, by artist Melanie Daniel. With crowded narrative paintings in psychedelic teals and pinks, the artist introduces us to a desolate sun-drenched paradise in the near future, where earnest characters try to reconnect with nature and rebuild their post-cataclysm world. Daniel celebrates their attempted resistance with lucid figuration, manically vibrating pattern, and giddy coloration with acidic overtones, belying the pathos underneath.
Whether reviving plant species, bottling them in terrariums, or engaging with wildlife, the youths populating Daniel’s paintings show the pervading duality of a disillusioned post-11/9 generation, rife with both utopian and dystopian narratives. In Daniel’s imagination, we are never sure of what exactly is accomplished through these efforts, but her insistent style lends itself to their idealism.
Ups and Downs Landscapes
Ups and Downs Landscape at KaBe Contemporary gallery
A Labyrinth into Personal Archaeology
A walk through the studio of Weisman in Tel Aviv in early September 2012, and its transition ‘overseas’ into the gallery space in Miami, ignites several directions of thought and reflection on the artist’s current work.
Weisman’s interdisciplinary installation invites the viewer into a space that holds two realms of experience at once: a labyrinth and an archaeological site. We as spectators, or visitors to this space eloquently must move around the space, as we undergo a process of excavation, deciphering the iconic symbols around us: a house, a head, a body, a ladder, numbers. Weisman entails in his work a process of digging and exposure, of a personal and cultural terrain, reminiscent of desert landscapes where removal and filling take place.
Inside this space, we are taken into a labyrinth which we must decipher, as it is inside labyrinths where a clear route that takes the visitor into the center where the ‘truth’ is said to be found. These labyrinths appear at times in dreams and may represent notions of misgivings or uncertainties. Usually it is difficult to find the access point into the labyrinth and difficult to escape it, legends say it is only the sage one that can find his/her way. The labyrinth may incite confusion or a sense of disorientation – represented in Weisman’s center piece and ladders around the gallery – one can approach but cannot walk inside or through them, as they are minutely small, narrow or misgiving to a promenade within them.
Weisman is closely connected to his home-town Haifa, a port-city, industrial in character where the working class was a prominent layer of the population, where the ocean is always at the view of the spectator, yet at its skyline is filled with a view of large ships, transportation hauls, and a growing number of business office buildings. Reminiscent of the urban and natural landscapes of his hometown, Weisman in his special experiences juxtaposes painting, sculpture and installation, embedded as one body of work, interconnected to each other. This core element of his oeuvre embodies layers of reflection and perspective characteristic of the Weisman signature language that he has developed over the past decade.
Colin Renfrew, the prominent British archaeologist, claims that the archaeologist, much like a visitor at a gallery of contemporary art, attempts to make sense of and to figure out the material world in front of them, be it an art installation, or the objects, the artifacts and buildings unearthed from an archaeological excavation. But he also alludes to another kind of relationship: the archaeological process, according to the author, can be seen as art production, through the features created on the ground by expositing old structures and creating news ones, but also through material practices, such as photographing archaeological features, objects, and landscapes and producing texts about them.
All in caves, enclosed, usually lacking openings for escape, it is only through harsh digging that we as spectator can enter Weisman’s world and find a head, a house, numbers. In the practice of preservation and conservation of archaeology each artifact or specimen is numbered with a small ticket, usually hidden from the viewer’s eye. Here it seems as the numbers the artist has accumulated, perhaps each symbolizing an archival/archaeological specimen of his own, is buried deep inside the earth provoking also thoughts on death and mass burials, yet at the same time igniting a sense of terranial life.
Danna Heller is an independent art curator based in Tel Aviv.
Colin Renfrew was Master of Jesus College Cambridge, and later as director of the MacDonald Institute of Archaeological Research.
Muddy Blues : Nadav Weisman's Ups and Downs Landscape
Plywood is, by American standards, a legitimate, if somewhat precarious, construction / building material. It is also the chief component in Nadav Weisman's solo exhibition, his first in the US. In the hands of a skilled craftsman a truckload of plywood panels may turn into a house. Once occupied, a house begins to accumulate the presence of its human tenants until it acquires that elusive quality that turns it into a home. In the context of Weissman's art the occupation of the houses and tenement buildings that dot his paintings or make up his sculptural installations is never quite possible. Although his oeuvre may very well be described as an ongoing building project, the architectural structures he creates remain desperately vacant. This pathological vacancy is one of the elements that infuse Ups and Downs Landscape with a subtle sense of melancholy. All of the artist's imagery – the makeshift architectural gestures, horses' and human heads, the lakes and ponds and swampland, the ladders, trees and roots – seem 'hollowed out' like dissected memories inside the cavities of the mind.
There is a stark contrast between the richness of Weisman's arabesque-like imagery and the matter-of-factness with which he renders it. His is a rough painting, lean and bonny, so to speak. His work is rapid and straight forward, as if carried out by someone facing a torrent of images he must capture with great urgency and frugality, leaving out all that is unnecessary for his 'geographical' report. It is tempting to tag these works as “necessary cartography”, where the images convey the very process of recording only the fundamental information onto the plywood surface.
Rather than a thorough rendition of a visible landscape, what we get here is an express transmission of an internal one, a swamp-like world with cavities and caves in which images of considerable suggestive power lie. The atmosphere reminds us of the primary Freudian assertion whereby what lies beneath the surface is always as important, if not more important, than what is visible. A horse's head is not merely 'lacking a body' but rather is an image of amputation, charged with symbolic meaning which renders it both highly personal and universal.
The swampland, the archaic symbol of Time immemorial, is presumably a magnet for two types of personas, initially at odds with one another. For the restless, free-spirited Pioneer, forever drawn to the mire by the sheer challenge it poses, there are but two options: to conquer that untamable 'virginal' wilderness or to die by its dark spells, breathless in the rotten-egg stench of its ancient bosom. For the pensive, melancholic poet, the swampland is the sad goldmine of his own melancholy. And it is never 'a virgin': as Weisman's works show, the swamp, and at the same token any landscape is always laden with images, dreams and memories. So the artist, just like the territorial Colonialist, might find himself knee-deep in the mud, but for entirely different reasons. Where the first seeks to do away with the marshes by drying them out, the latter digs-in laboriously as the swamp calls him to uncover what is buried beneath its slimy surface. To put it plainly, the artist needs the swamp, metaphorical or real, because 'unearthing' it is where his work to grow from. He may dig-in, but he's not in the business of draining.
Weisman's other important medium in this exhibition is mud or rather translucent mud, at once concealing and revealing. The tension between concealment and revelation is what renders the Erotic visible. In that sense the artist's landscapes are utterly auto-erotic, and bear a sense of irony that is a terribly private one. One may even call it a tragic irony: the irony of a Dreaming Head which appears. In its tautological cyclicality, which portrays the dreamer and the dream as one and the same, Weissman's world is rather like a child's dreamland, enclosed and self-sufficient. The artist is, then, both the child and the adult here, whose mastery is precisely his ability to conjure the private symbol out of his own psyche and render it public. In this sense, we may approach Weisman's body of work as we would a coming-of-age narrative, a bildungsroman in which the author/artist renders his internal landscape visible in order to make sense of the troublesome outside world.
The three dimensional works in the exhibition are rather different than what the artist had produced in the last decade or so. In his previous sculptural installations Weisman had carved a private universe for himself, inhabited by bulky sculptures of child-like characters. His room-size works portrayed a world that pivots around the child's onanistic play. With their un-proportionally large heads, his 'children' were the quintessence of puberty, stuck halfway between childhood and maturity. In other words – they were hybrids, forever engaged in a game of jackstraw or riding broomstick horses. They were the actors in the his mini-dramas, which he fashioned out with great detail, perhaps as a means of an obsessive self-examination.
The fragile reliefs in Ups and Downs Landscape suggest the maturity of someone who looks at things from a distance, a temporal rather than a physical distance, as if remembering things past. If examined in an autobiographical context, these architectural sculptures may provide valuable reading of weissman's world. In most cases these reliefs either remain tact to the wall, or hover a few inches above the ground. In some cases they protrude into the three dimensional air, like thin trajectories, the specters of some anonymous urban landscape, suspended in mid air. This delicate physicality of suspension between the discernible image and the abstract gesture, is equivalent to the metaphorical quality of his early work, that sense of being in-between ages. Here the adolescent-baby, stuck between worlds, is replaced by images of houses that are suspended halfway between ceiling and floor, as their plywood bodies attempt to defy gravity.
Perhaps this makeshift architecture is reminiscent of the city of Haifa, Weismman's native town in the Northern part of Israel. It's a city of paradoxical nature, utterly modern- and laden with history, a symbol for Jewish-Arab co-existence, yet constantly watchful for the possible eruption of the age-old nation, ethnic and religious tensions. Built on the western slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa's morphology is a direct result of the mountainous geography of its surroundings. Its downward movement towards the Mediterranean Sea and the port area results in its division into an upper town and a lower city.
This up-and-down geography may be discerned in Weisman's basic rendering of his landscapes, and, more importantly, in the fundamental division between what is above the surface and what is buried sub-strata. One is tempted to identify his preoccupation with the Freudian model of the soul with the very surroundings of his upbringing. This interpretation should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt, but the image of a city suspended in mid-air is undeniably a fundamental one in the show. The entire 'landscape' of the exhibition seems to stretch between the horizontal and the vertical, above and beneath a horizon line that separates the upper and the lower worlds, and between the opposing forces, ascending and descending Weisman's bridges, catwalks and ladders.
I'd like to stretch this line of thought a bit further, hopefully without jeopardizing its mysterious opaqueness. As we return to the lonely houses that would never be homes, which Weisman carefully places above the ground, it may become clear that what is buried beneath them may very well be the reasons these houses can never become homes. Like the modern house build on the ancient cemetery in countless horror flicks known to every American, Nadav Weisman's houses are forever haunted by the very images and objects he digs up from underneath them.
Avshalom Suliman is an artist and freelance writer based in Tel-Aviv, Israel