Uri Gershuni | The Phantom Menace Solo exhibition, Hamidrasha Art Gallery, Beit Berl
This large installation shown at tinderbox extends over the entire gallery space and – like most installations by Nir Alon since the 90ies – consists of used, partly discarded, furniture as well as light bulbs.
At first sight this may appear trivial, but furniture carries personal and collective history and they are – as well –
a mirror of society.
Nir Alon negates totally the normal use of furniture and brings it into abeyance. By creating reckless balancing acts – which may seem just impossible to the beholder if he didn’t see it with his own eyes – the artist lets the furniture and the light become his own and our history with severe ease. Always on the verge of the big crash, he points out that everything can always be very different than a second before and that things can, sometimes, change faster as we would believe.
Information wise – drawing the maximum out of his installations is one of most important topics of the artist, while all the stories, feelings and drama of their former users are only mentally present.
Through the instability, some transience of life shown quite plainly but the existential declaration which made is no pure nihilism at all; in the end Alon’s installations are load-carrying forms. The threat of misbalancing is also a game, a play which may be quite regarded with humour. According to this one can associates and reflect toward huge spectrum and we can be sure that the artist is conscious about that: From Buster Keaton’s humour to Dadaism and Environment art, from action art of the 1960ies, Assemblage and object art to Fluxus and Arte Povera. Names like Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Duchamp or Jannis Kounellis and Joseph Beuys come to our mind. Beuys installation „Erdbeben im Palast“ (Earthquake in Palace) from 1981 as an example, shows everyday life objects and furniture that are arranged fragile and hang in the balance. In this example we can define a special situation right after the disaster that changed everything while Nir Alon leaves us completely insecure if something blatant happened or will happen.
Not only our knowledge around the history of art which can be consulted is important, but also the game and the play which the artist plays with our perception – a game with a vague result. Furniture and light bulbs specify a quasi-theatrical play – as Alon revives it after nobody wanted them anymore. For sure there are a lot of stories to tell about the artist himself – e.g. that he was born in 1964 in Jerusalem, Israel, that he was – let alone his forefathers – on the run, and that he has no studio because it would have no use for him. But the beholder doesn’t have to know the private background, even though it has hints in Alon’s works. And so, the stuff of everyday life – that normally stays put – turns to metaphors of travel, escape as well as the time between arrival and departure. But these installations are not there to raise our pity. They shall remind us on (our) weakness, reflecting on (human) weakness that can be seen as a quite interesting situation: losing and loss is also a sign of strength.
“The state of things“ – Nir Alon shows that through rediscovering what people do not want to have around them anymore. And even if it may look like an accident, a joke, an improvisation or non-art it hopefully leaves us with the impression of an elegy. Also due to the deep and dark bloodline that European history has left in everyone and everything, which plays its role here -it is definitely about feelings.
Balance is also just a kind of tightrope act of emotions, and a lack of emotions hold desolation, which we want to avoid.
The Installation consists of chair, valise, light bulbs, drawings, room size
The great story of my nation, Reinking project, Hamburg, Germany
Active constellation – works from Reinking collection, House of Art, Brno, Czech Republic.
The Ground on Which I Stand (Part II)
Nir Alon | Gazmend Ejupi
Curator: Michele Robecchi
'The Ground on Which I Stand' first opened at Chelouche Gallery in Tel Aviv last spring. Following the date in Prishtina, it will travel to Hamburg and London.
Nir Alon and Gazmend Ejupi | The Ground on Which I Stand
the Agency Gallery, London
Curator: Michele Robecchi
‘The Ground on Which Stand’ is based on a speech given by the great, late American playwright August Wilson (1945-‐2005) on the occasion of the Theatre Communications National Conference in New York in 1996. A key art of Wilson’s statement was about the difficulties he was having in separating his concerns with theatre from his concerns of his life as an African-‐American. 'It is difficult to disassociate one part of my life from another. I have strived to live it all seamless … art and life together, inseparable and indistinguishable. The ideas I discovered and embraced in my youth when my idealism was full blown I have not abandoned in middle age when idealism is something less the blooming, but wisdom is starting to bud. The ideas of self‐determination that governed my life in the ’60s I find just as valid and self‐urging in 1996.’
Taking the cue from Wilson’s plea, the exhibition aims to investigate the impossibility of separating art from life and how they contribute to shaping our vision of society. Nir Alon (b. 1964) and Gazmend Ejupi (b. 1973) both share an interest in theatrical forms of representation as well as a constant struggle to define their cultural and geographical identity. The resulting sense of displacement is reflected in their different practices and the dialogue they entertain.
This exhibition, now in its third incarnation, marks the first collaboration between the two artists after years of acquaintance. The choice of investigating their own individuality, as well as issues of nostalgia, belonging, absence, integration and diversity, through a joint statement reveals an exploration of everyday reality counterbalanced by complementary narrative models.
The public display of their perception of the changes that have characterized their lives is an invitation to enter a moment of collective history and experience a personal one, and to embark on a journey to discover the ground on which you stand.
‘The Ground on Which I Stand’ first opened at Chelouche Gallery in Tel Aviv in spring 2011 and at Tetris in Prishtina in autumn. Following the date in London, it will travel to Hamburg for its conclusive leg, where a catalogue documenting all four exhibitions will be launched.
The Ground On Which I Stand
An exhibition in four parts
Tel Aviv, Pristina, London, Hamburg
The Ground on Which I Stand is an exhibition investigating the impossibility of separating art and life and how the former one can help shaping our vision of society.
Nir Alon (b. 1964) is an Israeli-born, German sculptor and installation artist. Alon studied from 1988 until 1992 at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. In 1996 he received the prize for young artists from the Israeli Ministry for Education and Culture. In 2001 he received a working scholarship as a guest artist to Hamburg and since then he has lived and worked in the city.
Nir Alon preferably develops his sculptures from discarded everyday life items such as furniture, suitcases, lamps, light bulbs and cords. His installations are assembled on and reference the exhibition sites in order to obtain an effect of urgency with the most affordable means. His works are in many public and private collections in Germany, Israel, Italy and the United States.
Detailed exhibitions list available on request.
Gazmend Ejupi (b. 1973) is a Kosovo-born artist based in London. Ejupi graduated from the College of Arts and Design in London and obtained an Master of Arts at the Kingston University.
His work focuses on conflicted identities and the phenomenon of immigration that is dominating our times. Through a varied range of media, that includes painting, sculpture and film, he investigates sentiments of nostalgia and marginalization as well as the contradictions of contemporary culture deploying simple yet compelling narratives and astute social observations.
His work has been exhibited in many international exhibitions, including the 1st Celeste Prize in London and the 4th Tirana Biennale in 2009. Detailed exhibitions list available on request.
Michele Robecchi is an art critic and curator based in London, where he is a Commissioning Editor at Phaidon Press and a Visiting Professor at Christie's Education. He is the author of a monograph on the work of Sarah Lucas (Electa, 2006) and, together with Francesca Bonazzoli, of From Mona Lisa to Marge: How the World's Greatest Artworks entered Popular Culture (Prestel, 2014).
He has curated or co-curated various exhibitions, including 'TIP: Trends, Ideas, Projects' (Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, 2004), 'Beauty So Difficult' (Fondazione Stelline, Milan, 2005), 'Calling All the Stations' (National Gallery of Kosovo, Pristina, 2010), 'Pretenzione Intenzione' (Fabbrica Rosa di Szeemann, Maggia, Switzerland, 2015), 'Brian Eno: The Ship' (La Commun, Geneva, 2016), and two editions of the Tirana Biennale (2001, 2003).
Special thanks to
Ishai Adar, Shlomo Almagor and Israel Reisen Travelling Agency, Malca (Regina) and Itzhak (Tomy) Alon, Mika Alon, Shelly Alon, Adi Artsi, Jesta Brouns and Ina Königsberg – Design Factory International Hamburg, Ofra Cain, Ishai Adar, Bloody Foreigners, Michal and Miron Fried, Fabienne Gassmann, Bea Herhold de Sousa, Elena Kane, Ralf Krüger, Nira Itzhaki, Cosimo Martin, Alban Nuhiu, Yifat and Ilan Solomon, Aferdita Statovci, Nora Weller, August Wilson, Eial Yehuda
Ira Eduardovna | The Library Room
Solo exhibition at Braverman gallery
text – Ira Eduardovna:
The video shows members of my family packing a suitcase in a sort of assembly line structure: my father is naming the object in Russian, my mother is taking the object and placing it on a table, my older sister is wrapping it and I place it in the suitcase. Every time the father names the object, a synthetic voice translates the name of the object to Hebrew. The situation happens in a domestic library room.
The narrative was filmed 5 times: one high angle shot of the table with the suitcase and the hands of the family members and four frontal medium shots of each family member. The five angles composited together create a layout of a room, as if it’s an open box/cube. The video is projected on an architectural structure of the room layout made of plywood, with a potential to open and close
Media City Seoul 2010
07.09.10 – 17.11.10
Media City Seoul presents the 6th edition of the biennial exhibition under the title ‘Trust’, comprising work of 46 international artists.
Seoul Museum of Art, Gyenghuigung Annex of Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul Museum of History and Simpson Memorial Hall (EWHA Girsl High School).
Curatorial team: Sunjung KIM (Artistic director, Media City Seoul 2010) and co-curators Clara KIM (Director/Curator of Gallery at REDCAT, Los Angeles), Nicolaus SCHAFHAUSEN (Director of Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam), and SUMITOMO Fumihiko (Curator, Arts Initiative Tokyo, Tokyo).
“Targeted Killing”, the new project Miki Kratsman is working upon, examines the term “focused foiling” coined by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). In the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the IDF uses this term against those it considers proven to have intentions of performing a specific act of violence in the very near future or to be linked indirectly with several acts of violence thus raising the likelihood that his or her assassination would disrupt similar activities in the future. The photographs in this series were shot using a special lens, which is commonly used by IDF UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). The outcome is an illusory moment – an image of the seconds before a targeted killing. The photographs draw on the images disseminated by the IDF via the media to the Israeli public in the aftermath of events of this type.
All the photographs in “Targeted Killing” were taken from Mount Scopus, located in northeast Jerusalem and overlooking the Palestinian villages surrounding it. Mount Scopus has been strategically important as a base from which to attack the city since antiquity, as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, parts of Mount Scopus became a UN protected Jewish property exclave within Jordanian-occupied territory until the Six-Day War in 1967. Today, Mount Scopus lies within the municipal boundaries of the city of Jerusalem. All the photographed characters in Kratsman's “Targeted Killing” are innocent Palestinian civilians going about their daily lives. However, the way they are being photographed echoes that of “suspects” and so evokes and reinforces this image in the eyes of the viewer.
Miki Kratsman was born in 1959, Argentina and immigrated to Israel in 1971. His photographs appear regularly in “Ha'aretz” newspaper in the column “The Twilight Zone” on which he is signed together with the journalist Gideon Levi. Since 2006 he presides as head of the photography department of Bezalel academy of arts, Jerusalem. Kratsman exhibits consistently, in Israel and throughout the world.
About the exhibition from Grand Valley State University Art website:
Artist text about the works:
Plants and hybridized forests appear in my paintings but I’ve never made these specific forms in 3D before. I wanted to make soft sculptures that exist in a sort of transitory space; unlike conventional paintings or sculptures, which have rigid dimensions and carry an ingrained protocol of presentation and care. These are stuffed fabric shapes that take on the orientation and format of a painting and reflect the “in-between” aspect of several work forms. Each sculpture could be unstuffed and ironed out, trading its polyfil and PVC support for stretcher bars. Called to mind are the soft sculptures of Eve Hesse, Philip Guston and Claes Oldenburg.
First, I prepare the canvas, using a wax resist method, fabric dye, acrylic paint. The canvas is then sewn, stuffed and mounted onto found objects that have been gutted, stripped and re-built.
I’m trying to echo the DIY spirit in my painting narrative, where landscapes are filled to the brim with hybrid conifers and tropical palms. Fugitive and versatile plant species in a changing and threatened world.
Ira Eduardovna | That. There. Then.
Solo exhibition at Momenta Art, Brooklyn NY
Curator: Eric Heist
Large-scale projection on a wall, projection on a wall that is built especially for the piece and leans against the gallery wall, four monitors on black stands arranged in a semi circle in the middle of the room.
For this video I cast four actors to play my family the way they were 20 years ago. The family of actors is participating in a staged television show that is based on an iconic Soviet television show called What? Where? When? In the original game a panel of 6 experts brainstorm in order to attempt to answer questions sent in by viewers.
In That. There. Then. the rules of the game are slightly different. My real family in today’s time (shown on another screen) is competing against the family of actors.
The narrative is filmed to be shown on 6 channels: one channel shows the edited TV show, another channel shows the real family waiting for the answer and 4 monitors show the points of view of the game participants.
The body of work presented by Uri Gershuni is based mostly on studio photography of anonymous men. The photographs surrender great intimacy, which is signified by the peeling off of the clothing, the encounter's location on a sofa or a simple bed with white sheets, the direct eye contact discernible in most cases, and, at times, by the performance of sexual acts. In some respects, the work strives to touch upon realms of non-speech, of silent communication, sensuality, and passion. In this context, the praxis of photography is revealed as a practice of acquaintance, even if the artist is already familiar with the figures. Through the act of photography Gershuni ostensibly attempts to get to know the photographed figures, focus on specific or fundamental aspects of their character, even seek a possibility of fusion, a potential moment in which a flickering identification of the self may elucidate itself in the portrait of the other. Since this is a moment made possible precisely through the analog nature of the photographic act, a moment eliminated by digital availability, Gershuni's work process strives to create a duration, to construct an archeology of an image. In this context, his insistence on film photograph (all the works were shot on 6×7 film, digitally scanned, and produced as Lambda prints) is associated not with the quality or appearance of the result, but rather with the nature of the work process. Film photography disallows reflection in real time. Elements of uncertainty, horror, secret, suspension, exposure and revelation thus become inherent to the time frame. The time span passing between the moment of encounter and photography, and the moment of confrontation with the photographic product, which may take place months later, is a significant chapter in the process of work. This lapse of time makes not only for a renewed encounter of the artist with himself and with the subject of the work, but also for a fresh identification of details, minute and substantial alike, of which he was not previously aware.
Gershuni's work is typified by formalist austerity, on the one hand, and a type of thematic wildness, on the other. It stretches the boundaries between the sublime and the abject, the erotic and the pornographic, profoundly exploring aspects of interpersonal tension or closeness generated under conditions of foreignness. Thus, it challenges the viewer by juxtaposing artistic, aesthetic, and moral questions, forcing him to confront his own private values which are often unformulated. The scrutiny of the notion of masculinity is performed through a broad range of gestures and postures, alluding to visual precedents such as the figures of Narcissus, Bacchus, and the like, in terms of the correspondence with “high” art (and especially with Italian Baroque painting), on the one hand, and through dialogue with quasi-“inferior” photography associated with the worlds of magazines, Internet, private or coincidental photography, on the other. The photographs themselves combine rigidity and softness, yielding and emptiness, great beauty and crudeness.
Born in Tel Aviv, 1970. BFA and MFA from the Departments of Photography and Fine Arts, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Recipient of the Young Artist Award, the Israeli Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport (2000), the Young Photographer Award, Haifa Museum of Art (2005), and a prize on behalf of the Heskia-Hacmun Law Firm (2007). Gershuni has had solo exhibitions at the Artists Studios Gallery, Kav 16 Gallery, and the Midrasha Gallery, Tel Aviv, among other venues, and participated in numerous group exhibitions in Israel and abroad. Among his better known projects is the Clubbers series created between 2003-2005.
Curators: Dr. Galia Bar Or and Yaniv Shapira
The exhibition is in conjunction with the publication of the catalogue
The Praxis of Landscape, or History at a Standstill
Galia Bar Or
Yadid Rubin's landscape painting is unprecedented in the local art field: he gives free rein to color as never before seen in Israeli art, and relishes the decorative which was rejected in its inner circles for many years. With the long breath of a life's work, Rubin's painting proposes a new syntax which does not correspond with the subjectivity, intimacy, and authenticity of the landscape, notions by which Israeli art has structured its identity.
Rubin's artistic choices are all but obvious: during his breakthrough years as an artist (the 1960s) he engaged in sculpture centered on abstract geometrical forms and physical as well as optical relationships which generate an illusion of space. Subsequently, he turned from sculpture to painting, and of its various currents he opted for landscape painting. From the broad range of options introduced by the concept of landscape, which has had a unique significance in Israeli painting, Rubin chose a single, restricted section: the landscape of his habitat, the kibbutz—a well-defined landscape, human in its sense as a system of life which projects organizational structures on its surroundings. Here too, however, Rubin's area is very specific: he depicts a landscape which is always comprised of the same few images, and avoids representation of the human elements constituting it. The human—as well as animal—figure is absent from his paintings; all that is left of it, at most, is a general torso of a tree trunk.
Conceptual Landscape and Mental Mapping
Looking back at the first published catalogue of Rubin's works1 reveals an artist well versed in the local artistic discourse of the time. Dating from 1978, the catalogue, which focused on conceptual landscape painting, accompanied Rubin's solo exhibition at Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv, one of the leading, dynamic galleries at the time. It featured a text by Amnon Barzel, a major Israeli curator and a well-known figure in the avant-garde circles in Israel and abroad in those days. The catalogue reflects the spirit of the time in its pragmatic design, the serial editing which emphasizes image sequences, and the choice of works which follows conceptual trends: painting, photography, print, and drawing in collage technique on plywood. Nevertheless, something about the catalogue—one entry in the biographical notes—is strikingly unusual: “From 1970 has been involved in designing the settings for festivals and celebrations in his kibbutz.”
What does it mean “designing the settings for festivals”? Preparation of holiday-décor as artists did for kibbutz dining halls which served as common gathering space? Why was it so important for Rubin to include such information in his catalogue in a period when the prevalent, desired image of the artist seems to have rejected such communal activity? At the time, Rubin was known mainly as a sculptor and a conceptual artist (rather than a painter), and he even won acclaim as such. A decade earlier, in 1968, he had already exhibited alongside Avraham Eilat, Yair Garbuz, and Yaacov Dorchin in a group show at the Kibbutz Art Gallery, Tel Aviv;2 in 1970, he participated in an important group exhibition in Jerusalem3 alongside leading avant-garde artists Yoav BarEl, Avital Geva, Moshe Gershuni, and Raffi Lavie. Did he engage in “kibbutz” painting concurrent with his up-to-date participation in the contemporary art scene? Identification of such an iconic aspect at the root of Rubin's conceptual painting could have yielded interesting insights, but in effect it exposed another, equally important and relevant dimension to which he must have referred in “designing the settings for festivals and celebrations in his kibbutz”: Rubin never engaged in “holiday decorations” nor did he design posters, because (among other reasons) in the stream to which his kibbutz belonged artists were not asked to harness their art in the service of any communal, social, or political task for ideological reasons.4
Artists such as Avital Geva of Kibbutz Ein Shemer or Yuval Danieli of Kibbutz HaMa'apil operated in Rubin's geographical proximity: these were members of kibbutzim affiliated with the Kibbutz Artzi—Hashomer Hatza'ir (National Kibbutz—Young Guard) movement, who were asked to dedicate a considerable amount of their “art time” to the social and political space in their kibbutzim due to the stricter ideological platform of their movement. In contrast, the model of the artist which evolved in the Kibbutz Meuchad (the United Kibbutz) federation (and in the “Ichud” after the schism of the 1950s) already in the 1920s, since Haim Atar's work in Ein Harod, legitimized relative independence for the artist in society. The artists of the first generation were adamantly dedicated to their art, inspiring Rubin, who knew some of them personally: in the late 1960s he used to join his mother, Lena Rubin, coordinator of the Sculpture and Painting Department of the Kibbutz Movement, on studio visits to kibbutz artists throughout the country, among them Yehiel Shemi, Moshe Kupferman, and Ori Reisman. Lena Rubin believed in the power and importance of art in the kibbutz, and exerted much effort to foster a young generation of artists. Among kibbutz artists she was considered “the mother of all artists”, and was also the figure behind the establishment of the Kibbutz Art Gallery in Tel Aviv (1966), intended to grant exposure to kibbutz artists in central Israel.5 Rubin thus belongs to the second generation of kibbutz artists, a generation that grew up in the late 1950s whose notions of kibbutz and art naturally differ from those of the founding generation. The artists of his generation who hailed from Hashomer Hatza'ir kibbutzim left their mark by adoption of social-conceptual art, whereas the artists of the Kibbutz Meuchad persisted in creating “art for art's sake” as part of the period's range of currents.
The unusual information in the catalogue, which Rubin significantly chose to repeat in ensuing publications, relates to “artistic installations” such as unique lighting for Hanukkah (the Jewish Festival of Lights), obtained by a simple yet sophisticated arrangement of spotlights in the space, or collaboration with other members in “happening”-type events. Rubin recounted that “all the holiday celebrations were based on my decorative ideas, not through the words or the scriptures. It was a time of togetherness, we lived mainly outdoors, and the atmosphere was very good. The involvement in the festivals left me with my feet on the ground. It enabled me to be in touch with people, with reality. Painting is an occupation that pulls you away from people; in painting you are on your own.”6 During that time, his summers were spent working in the cotton fields in his area of expertise (pest control), while the winter days were devoted to painting. During the long painting months he missed social involvement and human contact, and therefore conceived of “festival design” as an experimental practice incorporating his private occupation with the public sphere.
One of the activities he initiated, which would prove highly significant to his future work, focused on the image of the kibbutz landscape as imprinted in the consciousness of individuals and the community. Rubin instructed fellow-members to “draw an overview of the kibbutz, as registered in your memory,” to create a memory-picture spanning a broad section of the landscape of the place. Countless sketches of the kibbutz, created by members under Rubin's instruction, are still kept in a drawer in his studio, attesting to their personal significance and relevance to the process he developed in his own work. In fact, the members created mental maps of sorts, which indicate inner patterns, “landscape pictures” which indeed refer to a concrete place (Kibbutz Givat Haim Ichud), yet present conventions of space representation ranging from the cartographic to the decorative. The kibbutz scenery is depicted via the incorporation of familiar images in a systematic structure—neighborhoods of rectangular houses or ones with sloping roofs, a central road and forking paths, clusters of trees in a schematic configuration, central buildings or reference points, such as a water tower—while leaving fluid boundaries between the delineation of the place itself and the space in which it is planted.
Around the same time, the mid-1970s, artist Penny Yassour of Kibbutz Ein Harod Ichud engaged in the processing of mental maps as part of her research on “mental maps and environmental image” in the Geography Department at the University of Haifa, where she studied simultaneously with her studies in the Art Department; she too instructed the members of her kibbutz to draw a detailed map of the space which they considered their habitat. Rubin was not familiar with Yassour's pioneering work at the time (which was still unpublished and, to a large extent, may be said to have preceded the local artistic discourse now deeply interested in the field); Yassour was likewise unaware of Rubin's unusual work, and it seems that both of them, at that stage, had not regarded this activity as an integral part of their artistic practice. Moreover, despite the similarity between the two projects, the point of departure of each was different, and so was the accumulating meaning within their respective oeuvres. Yassour placed her own emphases in formulating the guiding question: “What do you consider to be your environs?”—drawing an affinity between one's definition of one's habitat, his/her experience of the space, and perception of identity. Henceforth Yassour developed an intricate occupation with space, which she linked to modes of memory construction: private and collective, biographical and historical.7 Delving into this subject and its implications to the art world in the kibbutz context may shed light on the nature of memory work (even if it is not conscious) in Rubin's painting; it may account for an extended process whose essence is the distancing of the direct experience of a vision of reality. The idea of mental mapping reflects a process-based logic of layering sensory and emotional experience alongside cartographic and iconic representations to create a mold of a place which remains dynamic in essence.
Internal Image of a Place and Conventions of Representation
In the mid-1970s, while the kibbutz members were painting mental maps under his instruction, Rubin himself focused on a different type of painting: oil on canvas depicting the most intimate space for him, the studio interior. He created a series of monochromatic gray-pink paintings where he explored issues pertaining to surface and space, two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality, drawing and painting, reality and memory, filling the canvas with hovering specter-like representations of frames, work tools, and other accessories from the artist's quintessential private space.
In personal notes he kept for himself at the time, Rubin expressed his doubts as a painter: he was dissatisfied with the modus of experiential or impressionist painting, the heritage of his studies at the Avni School of Art, from which he endeavored to free himself in this series. Shortly thereafter, the unique buds discernible in this series have already evolved into a distinctively personal line: a representation of space by means of a cross-hatch, decisive line which acquires substance of its own and a strong, independent presence, more powerful than that of the object hints scattered on its surface: isolated schematic representations of images from his immediate setting (e.g. house, tree, field) processed via set forms and transformed into local coordinates, signifying reference points which carry a meaning both subjective and collective.
Unlike Yassour, who studied mental mapping as part of her academic work, further exploring this practice in her artistic work which consciously confronts issues of space and consciousness, Rubin's engagement with the subject was initially intuitive, yet it paved a rich and fascinating painterly path for him, in the course of which he developed his personal language. From this phase on, his work addressed the tension between the two poles of his artistic activity, the kibbutz and the studio: an internal image of a place, and conventions of representation which were laid bare to expose the signification schemes structuring them, the heritage inherited from conceptual art.
The first phase in this work mode was summed up in the catalogue of Rubin's 1978 exhibition. The author of the catalogue text, curator Amnon Barzel, discussed Rubin's obsessive repetition of the same few images, noting that the works “are actually documented questions,” and that “between the indifference of uncommunicable nature and the forms registered on the paper lies the 'self,' the artist who is entirely incapable of preliminarily cutting himself off from the given forms.”8 The concentration on the “given forms” was to liberate Rubin and pave his way to realms which he subsequently developed at a single artist's inclination.
Adam Baruch, who also wrote about this formative exhibition in Rubin's career, gave his essay the interesting title “Observation Diary,” which shifts the focus from the object of representation to the time of observation. “Discussion of this recommended exhibition calls for an easy introduction for a reader who did not see it,” he gently praised, stressing that “comprehension of the reference and message are followed by persistent repetition. Repetition in itself is a value, expressing the multiple possibilities to translate a given landscape form onto the artist's paper.” Baruch identified at the root of the exhibition “a utilitarian philosophy regarding the very limited hope in the artist's attempt to capture form-landscape and offer a “final” formulation on paper, on plywood, or in photography.” Being aware, however, that landscape painting, more than any other genre, carries the traces of essence, he supplemented his review with an explanation: “If a painting portraying a cypress tree (for example) by means of its graphic image (form contours, impervious areas) still requires a credibility coefficient, then all of the aforesaid is such a coefficient. Rubin's cypress avenue is not an illusory replication, but rather a utilization of an authoritative image to create a picture of a cypress avenue.”9
Rubin himself did not theorize much. He did, however, keep a journal in which he expressed his doubts and reflections. In his (unpublished) notes he tackled the elusive line between the short-lived and the unchanging, between assumption and knowledge, and explored the affinities between the intellect and the senses, between landscape and a mental-emotional condition, between beauty and truth. Thus, for example, he wrote:
What is the connection between beauty and innocence? Can beauty be something sophisticated and calculated? What is a feeling of beauty, of power? Is beauty nature's response to the tremendous dirty work done, to the everyday, to cyclicality, erosion, metabolism? Is it but a superficial external shell or is it something deep-seated, recurring, influential? Is it possible to comprehend things without knowledge? Is knowledge the construction of things or is it, in fact, limiting because one may use the little facts to construct the thing itself, but no more?10
Existential questions, quandaries, disconcert, thrill, idea fragments—all these indicate a work process which begins with thoughts registered on paper, continuing through painting, and developing in circles, rather than via a predetermined decisive route.
Rubin's work, even if it focused on a specific, concrete landscape, was trend-crossing and bore a new face each time in its oscillation between internal image and convention. Discussing Rubin, Raffi Lavie wrote that he has the ability to create color combinations “typified by unique, engaging, and highly expressive materiality and form,” and not only “does each period differ in nature from the previous ones, but every painting appears as though it had been created by someone else, so that it must be experienced as the sole work of an anonymous artist, which in no way lessens the experience.”11 Today, after the eye has become accustomed to Rubin's unique landscape, there is no mistaking the artist who created it, and it is clear that while Lavie's description is exaggerated, there was truth in it until the late 1980: in those days, while paving his way to the painting's eruption in color, Rubin's painting was characterized by the multi-faceted aspect of search. The question thus arises: What memory reservoir of painterly patterns inspired Rubin, concurrent with the dialogue he conducted naturally with contemporaneous trends?
Painting's Memory Reservoir: Local and Foreign Sources
Rubin was exposed to diverse painting options from a young age. “There was always an artistic atmosphere at home,” he says, and “the immediate as well as the more distant surrounding prompted and even pushed me toward art, maintaining that I was talented in painting.” Rubin mentions Miriam Ben-Aharon, who was “an incredible teacher” and believed in him, “even though I wasn't a virtuoso in painting, I was not skillful in conveying existing sights in painting, namely copying reality, but rather engaged to a greater extent with the material and its translation into my own language.”12
As a youth he was sent to art courses organized by the kibbutz movement. Before graduating high school he was already exposed to world art in Austria, to which his parents were sent by the kibbutz as movement emissaries, and audited classes at the Academy of Fine Art, Vienna (1957-58): “Europe and its treasures—painting, sculpture, architecture, etc.—opened the door to understanding the logical development and continuity in art. Art is an outcome of everyday life, something that I could not find here in Israel.”13 During that period he experimented in model painting and anatomy studies in the spirit of the classical academy; in his work outside the academy, he painted freehand in color. In 1962, following military service, he enrolled at the Avni School of Art, Tel Aviv. In his third year, his unique color qualities were noticed by Willem Sandberg (former Director of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and senior adviser to the nascent Israel Museum), who recommended him for a study grant abroad (Marks & Spencer Scholarship), which landed him at London's Royal College of Art for two years (1967-68). Rubin is still unsure what Sandberg saw in his color work: “I didn't understand what he was referring to; l was painting exclusively in black-and-white at the time, I sought but failed to find color. The teachers at Avni—Streichman, Stematsky, Mokady—were virtuosos. I held them in high esteem, but they wanted us to paint abstract. They taught us to use a lot of white and turpentine, and it killed the colors. I couldn't accept it, I didn’t like it, I was broken by the Lyrical Abstract. I took a break of several years to get away from it.”14 During his studies in London, Rubin turned to sculpture.
Of the Israeli artists who influenced him, Rubin mentions Moshe Kupferman, and mainly Ori Reisman with whom he conducted a dialogue (possibly a solo dialogue with himself). Rubin met Reisman upon his return from his London studies, when he joined his mother on a studio visit to the artist. “In a period when the entire world did otherwise, I was surprised to find Reisman persisting in his own way, taking no heed. I decided to do the same thing. Painting and color were the pressing things, as far as I was concerned.” Rubin admired Reisman's color work and his sharp compositions, and learned a great deal from him. Artists' relationships, however, are naturally dynamic and multi-directional; they offer inspiration while at the same time introducing a model which serves as an anchor for counteraction, for shaping an alternative option. For a very short period, in the second half of the 1980s, Rubin's work displayed a direct affinity with Reisman's painterly gestures, but in the following years he gradually developed what may be considered the opposite pole, to be discussed below.
Although Rubin created several cycles of paintings in oil on canvas early in the 1970s, the distinctive painterly transition in his work began in the early 1980s. The configurations of schematic landscape which he developed earlier were colorless. Once he found his color, it became a key element in his work.
“I Began Celebrating in Color”
“I remember watching a program on television; there was host Ram Evron and next to him a vase of spectacularly colored flowers. I thought to myself: television—in three colors—does it; it conveys a spectacularly colored picture; why can't I do it in painting? That's where I began.”
In 1982 Rubin rented a studio in Jaffa and started creating large-scale paintings saturated in color. The technical skills which he had not acquired during his studies in Avni, he learned from the salesman at the “Painter's Corner,” who taught him “retouching” and “final varnish.”
A large-scale, colorful painting in oil on canvas was not a common sight in Israel in the 1970s, but in the 1980s—after a conceptual and minimalist decade in which the world declared the death of painting—it made a resounding comeback. The expressive “New Painting” swept Europe and the United States, and had a strong presence in Israeli art as well. One of its major features was mythologizing of the landscape and the human figure, which bore a sensual archaic or neo-expressionist quality and were shaped with an outburst of gestural brush strokes and color. The mythical power of the landscape, illuminated with a foreign twilight or with a fire's blaze, and the human figure which appeared as though it had been conjured up from the depths of the cultural unconscious or burst forth directly from the movies—all these conveyed a dialectical tension between an apocalyptic vision and sensual, emotional vivacity, eliciting existential anxiety.
Rubin's series of large-scale oils on canvas created in 1984 (and presented at the Kibbutz Art Gallery in 1985), however, is neither mythical nor expressionist: despite the strong colorful element dominating it, the large dimensions, and the freedom of execution, it is one of the more intimate series he has ever created. Perhaps it is not accidental that the series also included a shoulders-up self-portrait with a sharp expression, whose green-haired head hides the vanishing point of a perspectival landscape picture a-la the cypress avenue. Through ostensibly crude drawing, Rubin tackled a different aspect of painting in each work, avoiding romantic sentimentalism. Without being lured by the visionary dimension prevalent in the period's painting, he created non-mannerist, direct and alert painting. Closed in his Jaffa studio, Rubin delved into photographs of the landscape which occupied his attention, the kibbutz landscape, and systematically explored different painterly solutions to the relationship between a figure or a group of figures and the scenery, experiments whose lessons he implemented in his subsequent work. One of the solutions he examined was a division of the canvas into a frontal plane comprising perspectival diagonals, and a rear plane, in the depth of the painting, extending across like a horizon. In some of the paintings the planes are reversed, as in the aforementioned self-portrait.
In 1985, the year in which the series was exhibited, Rubin already stopped using photographs in the painting process and removed the figure from his painting, leaving only a torso of sorts against the backdrop of the landscape. He began processing a landscape for himself as a memory vision, more abstract yet still based on a structure of a lower world and an upper world, earth and sky. The landscape work focused on simplification of the relationship between dotted areas or areas covered with flickering lines, either dense and impervious or radiant and glaring; the color work was now opened to unexpected, tense encounters between the colors' qualities, materiality and hues: blue and yellow, turquoise and pink.
Rubin's series from the first half of the decade were not documented in catalogues, and the same was true for the large series of paintings from 1975-76 which preceded the schematic-conceptual works discussed in the catalogue of the exhibition at Julie M. Gallery (1978). Rubin's tendency to explore issues pertaining to the language of painting and to breathe new life into them is discernible in these forgotten series of paintings. They reflect a searching, inquisitive nature and a willingness to go beyond realms which do not yield to an orderly binary process, while displaying a wide range of painterly skills.
In 1988 Rubin had a solo exhibition at Kalisher 5 Gallery, Tel Aviv, concurrent with another exhibition at Tova Osman Gallery in the city, which focused on significant work previously unexposed in museums. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue (published with kibbutz backing), whose text, not accidentally, was written by Gideon Ofrat, the quintessential independent curator of Israeli art. After surveying the diverse-to-contradictory options put forth by Rubin's painting, Ofrat maintained that it was the tension between these options that nourished his work: “The canvas of his paintings has turned into an area of mental pluralism as well as, possibly, an arena for the lengthy and continuous process of existential crystallization which may never be resolved and/or have any resolution at all. There, at the portals of Paradise, stands Yadid Rubin, re-entering for a moment inside the gates, driven out in the next. He is the one who does the chasing, he is the one who's chased away.”15
At the end of the 1980s and in the beginning of the 1990s Rubin returned to the few schematic images of kibbutz landscape which he had developed in the late 1970s, albeit now in spectacular coloration. Color and image, structurally consolidated, introduced a new concept of landscape and painting, very different from that of Ori Reisman. Whereas in Reisman's work the subject-artist and the “inner” essence of the landscape fuse to convey the “authenticity” of the turbulent encounter between painter and subject, Rubin's painting from 1990 onward no longer assumes the existence of such a subject and such a landscape for whose “essence” the artist strives. In this sense, of eliminating the subject's authority as an aural source, Ofrat's assertions seem to coincide with Rubin's shift: “He is the one who does the chasing, he is the one who's chased away.” Rubin's landscape composition does not yield to the gaze's yearning to penetration inward; his landscape is devoid of perspective, skyless, his world loses its substance: “A frame—square, rectangle, circle—defines an area of jurisdiction, the elements' size is subject to relative judgment, small-large-small-large only in relation to the observer, not as a global value—dark, light etc.”16 The emphasis is no longer placed on a focal point, but rather on the details comprising the whole, interwoven into one another like a rug, or interlaced like beads in a necklace. Rubin's view of color likewise changed, drawing away from Reisman's: “When I observed painters who engaged in color over time in an absolute manner, I realized the limited nature of a unidirectional decision or the fanaticism of predetermination. Reisman, for example, who posed for himself examples of colors in the form of a piece of plastic or fabric, ultimately suffered from the terminal, fixed definition of the outcome.”17
The uniqueness of Rubin's view of the landscape, as developed in the late 1980s, in relation to the perception prevalent in the canon of Israeli art, is elucidated through the local artistic discourse in the country in the decade under discussion, which was a distinctive decade of painting and color.
Painting in the 1980s and the Canon of Israeli Art
The series of exhibitions presented at the Tel Aviv Museum under Marc Scheps's dynamic direction, unfolded the trends in “new painting” in the United States (“American Painting,” 1981) and Germany (“New German Painting”, 1983); the curators of the major museums (Sarah Breitberg-Semel, Yigal Zalmona, Ellen Ginton) continued to spot contemporary trends in local painting throughout the decade.
The advent of “New Painting” in the 1980s posed a difficult challenge to critics, who regarded themselves as trailblazers facilitating the conditions for acceptance of trends which the public at large had difficulty digesting. In the previous decade—e.g. in the review of several painting exhibitions presented in Israel in 1975, among them Rubin's exhibition at Engel Gallery, Jerusalem, and Michael Gross's at Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv—critic Ran Shechori articulated rueful thoughts about the state of painting, which follows “familiar, likeable formulae from the past.” Hurting the rejection of avant-garde by the audience, Shechori maintained that “the limitations and faults of the representatives of the raging masses' taste thus become a norm of honor and a value to boast. If someone fails to relate to this or that phenomenon (avant-garde art), it follows that it is worthless, a mere evil, violent invention of bleeding heart epicureans—the dark agents of a foreign culture in pursuit of our souls.”18 While in the 1970s the choice of painting was considered a betrayal of avant-garde, the return to figurative painting in the 1980s was already perceived as a true reaction and a flattering appeal to the masses' taste. Hence, this was a hard nut to crack for art critics who, in those years, became curators in the major museums: Sarah Breitberg-Semel, an art critic in Yedioth Aharonoth, who was appointed Curator of Israeli Art at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1977, and Yigal Zalmona, previously art critic of Haaretz, who became curator of the Department of Israeli Art at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem in 1982. In their role as curators they had to be attentive to the trends of the time and to present the goings-on, while maintaining a critical distance which makes for ethical judgment. This was Breitberg-Semel's goal in the exhibition “A Turning Point” (The Tel Aviv Museum, 1981). In her catalogue essay, which echoes Shechori's aforementioned assertions, she warned against the trap of oversimplification lying in wait for “New Painting”:
The artist is not popular. Earlier on, the lack of sympathy was acco
Predicting the Weather | Tom Pnini
Friday, 24.04.2009 – 10.05.2009
Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects is pleased to present Predicting the Weather, an exhibition of new video and sculpture work by New York based artist Tom Pnini.
Pnini spent his childhood in and around the theatre exploring every corner of this living organism. There is a saying in the theatre world: When wandering the theatre, one ultimately finds himself on stage. This saying has resonated with Pnini into his adult life, and has manifested itself in his role as an artist.
Imagine yourself standing to the side of an oval stage. A backdrop is positioned at the center of the stage, dividing the space into two separate units. By standing at this position you are able to see both sides of the stage simultaneously. In the front you see the set and the actors, and experience the illusion in the same way the audience does. In the back, you see the apparatus that operates this illusion.
This fascination with the theatre world can be seen in Pnini's exploration of the art world, placing the viewer where they can experience both sides of the work. The viewer is then mesmerized by the illusion created by the art-piece, while being fully aware of the artifice. This body of work questions the representation of the illusion created within the medium of Video Art, while using sculptures that contain the same characteristics as a theatre set.
Pnini's last exhibition Double Feature is a good example of this idea. The installation consists of three elements; two video works – Volcano Demo and Sunset Demo/Sonya,and a sculpture. In Volcano Demo, the artist built a giant volcano – seventeen meters wide and six meters high, on top of a four-story apartment building in Tel- Aviv. Behind the volcano was a cast of eighteen stage workers that gave life to the illusion using smoke machines and lights. The volcano itself is two-dimensional as the video is divided into four steady front shots that contribute to the illusion.
In Sunset Demo/Sonya, Pnini built a five-meter-diameter two-dimensional sun. The video follows the sun on its course from sunrise to sunset, as a group of people working behind the scenes, holds the sun up and put it in motion. The resulting movement is not smooth as it is man-held. In watching the two videos you might choose to sink into the illusion, however, you can constantly see the way the illusion is made.
The sculptural element is made out of ten rows of twenty cm MDF, each measuring 1.5 meters high by five meters wide, and spaced at variable distances. The pieces are painted red on one side and blue on the other, and cropped into the shape of waves/flames. While walking in the installation only the heads of the people are visible as they seem to be drowning in the sea while going up in flames.
Research for the Full Crypto-Taxidermical Index, 2010
Research for the Full Crypto-Taxidermical Index was created for the exhibition “Shelf Life” in Haifa Museum of Art
Curators: Tami Katz-Freiman and Rotem Ruff
The sculpture was produced in collaboration with Haifa Museum of Art on the occasion of the exhibition
Tomer Sapir's collections constitute a kind of creative incubator, crowding his studio like a lexicon of images. These collections undermine familiar systems of classification that distinguish between nature and culture. This work highlights the twilight zone between these two categories, fosters ambiguity and questions other prevalent dichotomies such as those between good and evil, male and female, life and death. The hybrids that fill the display cabinets in this work are mutations suspended between the organic and the artificial, the seductive and the threatening. Alongside strange objects composed of plant-like substances are fossils, silkworm chrysalises, porcupine quills, stones and rotten, cracked fruit pits. It is impossible to know whether these artifacts were gathered in nature, or whether they are bodily organs or painstakingly created artificial imitations. Like an alchemist in his lab, Sapir examines the overlapping of biological and synthetic elements and attempts to come up with the chemical formula for combining them. His collecting revolves around the gathering of various types of objects that are integrated into his sculptural works, while undermining nature and melding life and still life, reality and imagination. The arrangement of his “collection” in drawers and cabinets is reminiscent of natural history, pre-history or archeology museum displays, yet the absence of a classificatory principle and the intentional deceptiveness undermine any attempt at coherence or order. The term “crypto-taxidermy” alludes to the embalming of animals that do not actually exist, such as a cross between a rabbit and an antelope; it further underscores the suspension of Sapir's work in the twilight zone between nature and artifice – the habitat of mythological, imaginary and cloned creatures.