Chelouche Gallery is happy to announce the opening of </sandbox> our new Digital Art Platform! Join us for the first </sandbox> online opening: Lior Zalmanson – Basic Basic English Solo Exhibition 19.12.2022 (8PM CET / 9 PM Tel Aviv) link to the event: https://distant.gallery/basic-basic-english in collaboration with DISTANTGALLERY.COM ‘Basic Basic English’ proposes a possibility of dialogue […]
Since the beginning of my artistic journey, I have used masks, whether traditional Japanese Noh Masks or popular and funny plastic masks. The masks present an element of distance that has always interested me” – ORLAN In this exhibition, pioneering artist ORLAN, continues to blur the boundaries between art, anthropology, technology, and science. The series […]
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. […]
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 […]
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” 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 […]
The artist Amir Nave inaugurates the new space of the Chelouche Gallery in Old Jaffa with the exhibition “The Slave Song”. Nave (48), Born in Be’er Sheva, lives and works now in Jaffa, Paris and York. The exhibition ”The Slave Song”, which will open on September 8, is the third part in a trilogy whose […]
Link to text written by Nira Itzhaki (In Hebrew): ‘Yadid Rubin: The Last Eretz Israel Painter’
Curators: Nira Itzhaki, Nimrod Vainer In Michal Chelbin’s new exhibition photographs from five series, which Chelbin has created since the early 2000s until these days, are shown. At the center of the pieces, young adults are apparent – the heroines and heroes of the show. Chelbin has portraited these during photography excursions in Russia, Eastern […]
The works included in the exhibition “ZANGA ZANGA” share parallel themes – representations of moments of collapse, ghosts, hybridity, repetition, and transitions between languages – while reenacting iconic political events, some of which occurred in the Arab world this past year.
Yadid Rubin is one of Israel’s most prominent artists. The exhibition features 16 new paintings, oil on canvas, from the previous two years. Yadid Rubin, born 1938, lives and works in Kibutz Givat Haim Yichud. Rubin’s paintings express remarkably and beautifully the meaning of the allusive term “Israeli characteristics”: the landscape of the kibutz, vast […]
Yadid Rubin, born 1938, lives and works in Kibutz Givat Haim Yichud. He arrives at his studio every morning, until noontime. He paints with sweeping dynamics that carries him into the climax, and then he brakes away from the painting, abandons the studio and returns the next day. Time and time again.
Rubin's paintings express remarkably and beautifully the meaning of the allusive
Term “Israeli characteristics”: the landscape of the kibutz, vast plowed fields, plantations filled with fruitful trees, columns of cypresses, houses and tractors. Small buildings and open spaces long gone live on in his paintings, free from dependence on the visible to the eye. “I paint the landscape of the kibutz, but in fact these are the landscapes of the soul. I don't paint out of plain observation, but out of the accumulation of sensations and reactions to different conditions of nature”, says Rubin.
Rubin's approach to painting is very personal and with clear pictorial style, much like Michael Gross and Rubin's long personal friend- Uri Reizman. Apparent in Rubin's work are the impressionist influences of Van Gouch with whom Rubin corresponds through the image of landscape, and through pictorial work with thick layers of paint and shapes constructed out of brush strokes that appear to be thrown on the canvas with great restrained force. For Rubin, the landscape is a semantic field of signs, replacing the realistic and naturalistic conventions of forms. Like Van Gouch, his point of view is subjective; but contrasting the agonizing and religious perception of Van Gouch, Rubin's perception is secular, free and full of optimism.
Rubin paints sitting on the floor or standing across from a canvas that leans on a chair. He smears the paint with his bare hands, with a spatula, with brushes or strait from the tube. His style is intense and dense with lush brilliant colorfulness. The colorful patterns repeat themselves to create an organized totality. The fields of form and color are constructed of a repeating rhythm of lines, dote and circle. This rhythm balances the continuance pulse of vertical and horizontal into a harmonic structure reminiscent of jazz music, creating a strong sensation of vitality and abundance, which seem to want to break the limits of the canvas.
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.
Emotion accumulated in Silence
“To extend the Being, to transform it into a vertical (supra-temporal) one, the ordinary must be internalized…. the subjectless must become the unique”.
The beholder of Yossi Mark’s works feels as someone unable to escape his own self. The works- restrained and meticulously done, consisting of the immaculately clean grayish space and a single monumental image, usually occupying the center of the composition, like an exacting icon- are magnetizing. Mark is creating a sacred contemplative space for the beholder, some kind of a temple.
The painting, seemingly, is from here and now. Images of young women conscious of their bodies’ maturity, strong youth, life overflowing with vitality; the seemingly banal appearance of the bathroom. The contemporary signs are recognizable everywhere but then a heavy silence penetrates the painting. Stillness. Seclusion. Serenity. The state of solitude and contemplation depicted in the painted image, gains strength against the emptiness surrounding it. Mark frees the space from details. The primordial space, the framed piece of the infinite- it possesses almost ethereal quality. The poetics of the empty and the raw intensify the metaphysical quality of the painting. The visual energies are concentrated in the essential, in the image, which is frequently found in a meditative state of mind, detached from persistent noise. It is purifying solitude creating a conscious state of inner attentiveness. This is the soul’s journey to the understanding of the self, of the surrounding, the Time, the way of life…
The painting is static. But its static character is only physical. The mental concentration creates motion and movement; thrilling alertness, procrastination, slowly reaching deep levels of consciousness. Mark seeks after being of wholeness lost in the extroverted and madness ridden contemporary culture. “There”, there is a meeting place- refined, essential, ancient, archetypal, and archaic. The referential connection to the regions of the past is not an unintentional return; it is born neither of nostalgic nor of romantic strategies. It is a purposeful and definitive action born out of conviction that precisely those components, so vital and valid, are loaded with primordially human weight.
The commonplace exists. It serves as a point of origin. The image, like the space around it, is free from superfluous elements. Everything is measured, is asking not to overburden the eye. The images exercise heavy physical presence that is not extroverted. The sensuality is not enticing. It is joyless, latent- a possibility only. The clothes are accidentally thrown over the body only as a covering for the flesh; the assumed posture is rigid and restrained. The physical tension exists but is light and only hinted at: stiffness of the nape, wrinkled fabric, disheveled hair, dynamism of the sheets in the bed, stains of red in the bath. Charged existence assumes silent activity. A state of mind rather then activity. The threshold of movement.
This painting is an outcome of prolonged, slow observation; it uses the surface of reality but is not captured in it. The painting aspires to laconism, compresses the Visible, asks to give full attention to what surrounds us, the immediate and the nearest: the light falling on the image, the juncture of the wall and the floor, the reflected image of the clothes-hanger in the mirror, the shadow cast by the washing tube.
The neutralization of the image from the majority of personal, local, and cultural aspects and taking it out of the indifferent amorphous sequence of everyday existence, detach the image, charge it as an icon. The image, its expression and construction in the space make an existential statement. “…the highest densities of meaning lie in the immediate, in the most obviously ‘at hand’.” This is not just a women washing herself, a pregnant woman, a sleeping figure, a youth looking through the window. It is an attempt to sanctify the profane. Ethical and aesthetic activity creates a shift, new relationship between signifier and signified, between classical, archaic, religious formations and those human entities having sculptural presence- monolithic and semi-stoic. An enigmatic encounter, sonorous and purified as in the advent, which transcends place and time.
Schumer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Fayyum, Byzantium. Rich cultural space, which is firmly imprinted on the human consciousness. The latent radiation of the past, its anchored presence in the present- lamination of the work in such a sophisticated way allows of a longed-for touch upon fundamental human experiences. Everything is so very distant and yet so very close, as if it has always been there. The atmosphere is saturated with humanity, the deep sorrow, the perished metaphysical light, the beauty, complete tranquility. Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Antonello de Messina, Caravaggio….
The intimate and introspective dialogue pours out of the image and into the surroundings and from there flows into the beholder. The synchronous dialogue: inside outside and inside again- into the beholder’s consciousness. The eye contact is established, the dynamics of “reflecting back”- a meeting of gazes between the beholder and the work of art. The image is a reservoir of feeling and thought, for everything that is impossible to embrace. The silence becomes active. The empty evokes a medieval echo. “Now I behold you as a mirror, in an icon, in a riddle, life eternal…. the secret places of my soul… to behold is to give life”.
The monumentalisation of silence, the severity and the restraint of the image and the background, impose and dictate a focused mood, moderato, accumulating. The power of the painting is in its being an echo chamber of the silence chords- thin, distant clusters of secrets.
Emotion accumulated in silence.
Drorit Gur-Arie is the Chief Curator and Director of the Petach Tikva Museum of Art.
Curator: Drorit Gur Arie
In this solo show, Yossi Mark presents 15 new works from the past 6 years, paintings and drawings in pencil, acrylic and oil on canvas, on variable scale.
Mark, born in Israel, studied philosophy and social studies in Tel Aviv University, and graduated the Avni institue for art in Tel Aviv. Along side his solo exhibitions at Chelouche Gallery in 1993 and 2002, Mark exhibited in the Tel Aviv Museum, the Petach Tikva Museum, the Israeli pavilion in Paris, the West Bloomfield Detroit and the University of Michigan.
Mark's is a unique realism that ignores the tactility of the outer surfaces, and does not idealize what is. Through crystal clear observation,silently detached from the hustle of convention, his paintings depict a near casual, common reality. With lucidity as close as feasible to the direct experience, free from constraints of time and space, albeit very precise about time and space. His art is endowed with Haiku qualities, saturated with the beauty of simplicity, of the ordinary, of the sadness which accompanies the knowledge of the inevitable ephemeralness. (from “Wall, Bed and Slippers”, by Drorit Gur Arie)
Mark's oevre centers the monomentality of the intimate and touches substantial human conditions. The figures that he shows us exposed in their natural expression whithin rooms, and their relation to the space around them, invites the spectator to encounter graceful moments of reflection in ordinary exsistence. His works move from the emotional to the contemplative, from the analitical to the poetical and from visual simplicity to emotional complexity. His paintings that lean on prolonged, slow, focused and direct observation build a soft, quiet, introvert essense that asks for inner attentiveness.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with the essays Wall, Bed and Slippers, by Drorit Gur Arie, Director and Chief Curator of the Petach Tikva Museum of Art and Yossi Mark: Warm expression, Cold gaze, by Dr. David Graves,a senior lecturer in philosophy of art.
Wall, Bed and Slippers
Drorit Gur Arie
The women that inhabit Yossi Mark’s paintings are within themselves, in a bedroom, sitting bewildered at the edge of a bed or half asleep on a crumpled sheet. Their reddish curly hair hints at relaxation, artlessness, a primeval quality; and their body language testifies to peacefulness, as if anticipating something which will forever remain beyond our understanding. The plain, blank wall blocks the horizon, fixes them, and the viewer's gaze, to the presence of the room, to themselves. The wall serves as a screen to cast reflections upon, to empty vagrancies of consciousness, in the silence of the room, in the loaded presence of matter, which is not much, the bare necessities, a bed, a rolled blanket, a nude woman, a pair of slippers and an expanse of floor occasionally. Mark creates matter from the void, movement from the inanimate, and silence envelopes all, contains the “story” which is in fact a “non story”, just “das ding an zich”; pure beauty, distilled grace.
I do my utmost to attain emptiness;
I hold firmly to stillness.
The teaming creatures all rise together
And I watch their return…
Returning to one's roots is known as stillness.
This is what is meant by returning to one's destiny.
Returning to one's destiny is known as the constant.
Knowledge of the constant is known as discernment.
Mark's is a unique realism that ignores the tactility of the outer surfaces, and does not idealize what is. Through crystal clear observation, silently detached from the hustle of convention, his paintings depict a near casual, common reality. With lucidity as close as feasible to the direct experience, free from constraints of time and space, albeit very precise about time and space. His art is endowed with Haiku qualities, saturated with the beauty of simplicity, of the ordinary, of the sadness which accompanies the knowledge of the inevitable ephemeralness. A pebble being thrown into a pond creates ever widening, fading circles, like soft sounds on a sounding board. It is imperative to gaze, to surrender, to that which the painting offers, here, in the immediate, the familiar, in the things as they are – exists the whole. Not in the obsessive search for the sublime, not in some hidden reality. Mark's women are to be found within rooms, in their own state of mind, in their solitude, without being lonely. Here under a bright, shining light, that shimmers on their faces and bodies, alone, facing the emptiness of the grayish blue wall that swallows their musings and gazes and emits them. A wall that is the horizon of the gaze, of consciousness, that is imbued with the seas of Caspar David Friedrich, aspiring to far away and unreachable horizons; as well as with Mark Rothko's fields of vision, dissolving the gaze into his squares that are floating towards the heart of darkness. Mark's sober regime of observation scrutinizes the contents of the intimate space, accelerates toward the empty wall that blocks that field of vision and forces a return to the image, to the room, to the enigmatic, silent space, to the self. In this Mark touches the spirit of Zen – seeing things in their suchness. This is an indication of “that which exists” as a basic cognitive entity, devoid of contrasts such as consistencies versus separation, approvals versus objections, attractions versus repudiations. This is a clear vision of our existence, without conceptualization, without implication of sentiments, or perceptions. This is “IT”, “A Return to the Root”, to what is and nothing else, which contains all dualities that exists in a reciprocal formation, in a complete mutuality. The elusive truth concealed within the expanses of Mark's oeuvres, lies not beyond what the eyes can see; it is present, as in Merleau-Ponty's dictum, in the heart of the seen by itself, in “the unseen of the seen”.
Drorit Gur Arie, is the Director and Chief Curator of the Petach-Tikva Museum of Art.
Yossi Mark: Warm expression, Cold gaze
Dr. David Graves
In the closing chapter of his book, The Shock of the New, on the background of his critical analysis of the course of contemporary art, pointing to the signs of reduction, diminution and gradual draining of the spirit, as well as to its often insipid preoccupation with semantics at the expense of the deeper artistic sentiments, Robert Hughes concludes that: “What makes the realist painting interesting is not complete illusion (as if such a thing were possible) but intensity; and there is no intensity without rules, limits, and artifice.” These are the exact prerequisites of the quiet and loaded intensity that is present in Yossi Mark's enigmatic paintings that are shrouded in magic.
Mark is a realist who is sober about realism itself. Aware to the fact that reality is viewed through many theories, is loaded with conventions, colored by often conflicting historical narratives and open to constant interpretation. For him, as well as for many of his peers, there is no clear-cut relation between art and reality. For this is a complex and dynamic relation, that operates on a scale from “what is” and “that which I see”.
In spite of Monet's and his predecessors’ Velasquez, Vermeer, Constable, and Courbet’s attempts to be as faithful to reality as possible and to paint only “what is seen”, “to be only an eye”, it is evident that a true realist is bound to an endless dialog, and as such Mark too operates between “what is” and “what seems to be essential to sum up the scene, to synthesize the painting, to realize its content.” Mark examines reality closely – diligently observes, uncompromisingly, his subject; however, he does not copy reality, certainly does not imitate it.
Thus starts the dialectical dialog that underlies his art – the dialog between what he sees and what he knows…”That which the world needs to become a painting… that the painting needs to become itself,” as was so well formulated by Merlot-Ponty in his 'Eye and Mind'.
The features of this dialog are present in Mark works: a slightly distorted corner of a room that dictates a wholly different compositional tempo – that “opens” the painting. A symmetrical headboard cut diagonally at the margins of the painting, a hardly noticed choice that is critical to the balance of the whole. Traces of the original sketch, which were transferred to the canvas by careful measurement, serve as evidence to the discrepancies existing between the original intention and the observed outcome – well measured irregularities.
However, when everything is meticulously executed, each discrepancy, be it the minutest, gains validity. A minute displacement of a line, an exquisite shift of an angle, stirs something on the canvas; creates a new impetus, a unique type of energy. This is a general rule of Mark's artistic language – all values are relative. Within a total silence, a whisper echoes like a roar, if everything is measured, then each anomaly is a jolt. The same principle applies to color; as a scholar of the early Florentine renaissance and of the Baroque periods, Mark is very well-versed in the interrelations of light-volume-space and in the mysteries of the chiaroscuro. Therefore it is clear to him that a rich, effective and multi-layered loading is achieved when light and shadow are presented relative to one another.
Within a banal, seemingly neutral expanse, by using complementary and simultaneous contrasts of colors, Mark weaves a surprisingly rich and colorful fabric. There he lovingly and endlessly kneads the yellow and the blue in low values, on the verge of twilight, into a magnificent lively field, that resonates between the warm and the cold, between shadow and light. In his fields of colors, reminiscent of Rothko, he contrasts chromatic values in a colorful dance that spreads all over the canvas, giving birth playfully to the whole spectrum. Greens and pinks, cold and warm, they all shimmer in a broken field of color. This is the exact magical moment during which the dull gray turns, in front of the spectator, to a universe of colors that no computer, albeit its millions of pixels, can compete with. The affinity of this aspect of Mark's paintings to those of the “New York School” painters, mainly Rothko and Newman, deserves to be closely studied, inasmuch as true greatness lies in the minutest details.
The secret lies not only in the mastery of the interrelations of colors, but also in the surprisingly fresh mutual dependence that is evident in the Underpainting. The deconstruction of the language down to the skeleton presents the viewer with the punctuation marks and the seams – the cradle of the mutuality of line and daub (as it appears in the two “Etudes” and in both “Abuna” – portraits of an old man), and offers a fascinating examination of the way in which a minute visual nuance – the presence or lack thereof of a transparent layer (such as in both “faces”) – may alter the impact of a painting. With Mark, an adherent of the underpainting, this stage, which is traditionally the first, is often the last as well. A pencil outlining the objective borders of the subject, and two shades of brown that take care of the subjective aspects of the atmosphere, tell the whole story. Thus appears again the special charm of his strokes, the essence that speaks for the whole, and the minimum which is simultaneously the maximum.
The tendency to construe the concept “minimum” as indicating “as little as possible” is inaccurate inasmuch as it is always possible to deduct more. The accurate interpretation should be “not less than that…” this is the exact minimalism of Mark's paintings. The measured definition of the subject by a pencil, the near colorlessness, the Spartan composition that rejects all decorative elements, and the void in which time stands still….. The simultaneous existence of “as little as possible”, and “not anymore”. These are the challenging, intriguing and even irresistible elements of Mark's realism.
The paradox of the minimum which is the maximum as well is one of the many qualities which are apparent in Mark's oeuvres. The colorlessness is miraculously colorful. The meticulous drawing by pencil is excruciatingly sharp, but teeming at the same time with love and boundless patience toward the subject and its craft whose product is gentle and cozy. A slightly deflected corner of a room softens the rigorousness of the composition, and puts the scene in motion. The silent counterpoint accumulating between the rigid decisiveness of the geometrical regime and the subtle softness of the anatomical volume and the morphological elements, as well as the dynamic impetus of the gaze as it accelerates into the pictorial space of the larger paintings; these, assisted by the perspective, create a panoramic experience that lives under the same roof with the monolithic static nature of the human images reminiscent of ancient Egyptian sculpture. The mystics are enamoured of the paradoxical, because paradoxes define the “absolute” by synthesizing the opposites. The assimilation of this quality into art signifies an exceptional artistic competence.
In an artistic corpus in which that which is measured shifts, the gray becomes a spectrum of colors, the banal is sublime and the monumental turns into routine, Mark's subjects appear as new landscapes, familiar and strange at the same time. The silky and the hard are interchangeable with hair and rock, a portrait of an old man with a mountainside engraved by time. Auburn hair flows down from a bed as a torrent of fragile crystals. A nude woman sits in her bedroom, in which the only warm objects are the floor at her feet and the shadow that she casts on the bed, and still, she shines. In another painting, the bed itself, in an unexpected close up, a surprising foreshortening – like a landscape beyond a mountain range…. And a pair of slippers.
In contrast with the seeming ostentatious, extrovert, alienated opulence which pervades the contemporary art world, Mark's canvases offer a restrained, reserved being, that strives to achieve simplicity, introversion; reconstructing faith in the act of painting. The subtle balance between their abstract plasticity and the concrete, coherent impression of their surfaces, as well as that which exists between the revealing, focused exposition of the images and the emphatic attention dedicated to body language and gaze – balances achieved through a direct, concise, long term, deep observation; these radiate a warm expression, produce a cold gaze, bring forward the secrete magic of the real.
Dr. David Graves is a senior lecturer in philosophy of art.
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