Back to the Beginning
Dana Lev Levnat, Amanda Mehl, Gustavo Sagorsky, Gabriella Klein, Hillel Roman
The works in this exhibition wish to retreat from the familiar everyday towards different, uninhabited landscapes, frozen and closed onto themselves. As an alternative to the spirit of our time, characterised by a ceaseless call for ever-changing enhancements and the breaking of new grounds, the works seem to go backwards and try to show the starting point. In some works the temporal transitions are reflected in an attraction to the moment of a beginning and to the first contact, and in others through distilling the beauty of neglected, obsolete objects. The artists’ attitude reflects a complex contemplation, of equivocal, blurry landscapes, sometimes connecting the nature and the city – and practises on the borderline between simplicity and glamour, everydayness and dream.
Hillel Roman’s series of new works presents different variations on the familiar Universal Studios logo. Roman eliminates colourfulness and limits it to shades of black and white that seem to take the logo back to its past and early days. Universal (established in 1912) was the first film studio in the USA, and is today one of the leading big film production studios. The logo was designed to suggest world domination, emphasising the global distribution that allows the same thing to be seen from every country and city. The paintings offer a new kind of cruising in the logo’s indistinct virtual space, hovering between the globe and the written world, between the world and language, or in painting terms – between image and text. Roman “enters” the logo’s renowned image and presents it from different angles. The series retraces the origins of the film world, its glory, the glamour, hope and thrill that are part of it. On the one hand the work projects a futuristic-fictional feeling, and on the other hand the use of black and white dims “the world”, which seems to belong to the past or to a kind of black-and-white future. The manipulation of the logo’s halo and glow recalls the 1960s word paintings of the American artist Ed Ruscha, such as the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles and the 20th Century Fox Studios logo. The letters in his paintings hover in the wide expanses of the open landscapes and the big skies, full of the majesty and holiness of a new religion, stepping out of the closed cinema towards new territories. Roman’s paintings produce a moment of revelation which moves between two distant poles, that of the specific image screened in the dark before the movie starts, and that of a metaphor for a cosmic experience of creation.
Gabriella Klein’s series of collages presents hybrid landscapes composed of an encounter between different places that have been taken out of their contexts. Klein, who usually works in the medium of painting, this time accedes to a new sculpture-like syntax consisting of various actions such as photographing, cutting, printing and pasting. The “sculptural” unpopulated landscapes hold a dialogue with Klein’s painting language and form a mixture of nature, urbanity and domesticity. Klein turns to the photographs of the 19th-century American photographer Carleton Watkins, which depict America’s virgin, monumental landscapes. Following Watkins’ footsteps and using parts of his photographs suggests a search for a kind of origin: both in terms of the birth of photography, of that magic of the beginning and the “first click”, and in terms of the power of the unspoilt open space. The nature views merge with photographs of a domestic bed sheet, a piece of cloth covering the façade of a renovated Tel Aviv building, and reproductions of sections from the artist’s paintings. Together they become an undefined place, a grafting of body and landscape, a “human nature” that connects different times and spaces.
Amanda Mehl’s series of sculptures bring to mind a wonder of nature implanted in the gallery space or alternatively a relic from a catastrophe or from another planet. The nine black rock masses jut out from the floor creating a surrealist landscape with no specific context or place. The sculptures wish to “masquerade” as lost nature and escape the familiar here and now, but a close look reveals that these pieces of nature are filled with sundry souvenirs from reality. The sculptures are made of everyday objects and contain a rich archaeology of pieces of jewellery, oriental souvenirs, plastic toys of fruits, animals and skulls, brand logos and so on. The objects become phallic, dark and glittery altars of disused junk. The black colour that dominates the sculptures is combined with gleaming metallic colourfulness, a kind of testimony to the last glimmers of life that continue to pulsate in them. Like fading magic still quivering in its last moments.
The starting point for Dana Lev Levnat’s wall piece are photographs from the series “Royal Garden” (2011), born from the artist’s childhood garden. Through digital copying manipulations Levnat turns a photograph of an urban garden into a kaleidoscopic landscape alluding, as does the name of the series, to the aesthetics of regal and luxurious gardens. The sites’ recognisability is lost and instead the viewer is confronted with a deceptive reality, a new table-turning composition. In the series “Untitled” (2013), comprising six photographs that continue each other in sequence, Levnat returns to the almost forgotten analogue technology of the photographic film. The artist works directly on the film’s surface, the (pre-developed) films, instead of capturing and immortalizing the views of reality, serving as a two-dimensional canvas for a manual-personal act of engraving and colouring. In other works Levnat uses simple Xerox prints or various cutting and pasting techniques. These playful actions undermine the notion of straightforward mimetic photography in favour of estrangement and ambiguity.
Gustavo Sagorsky’s group of photographs tells a story of cyclicality, objects’ metamorphosis and generated transformations. Sagorsky’ camera captures views from his immediate environment which he encounters without prior planning or knowledge. He works by looking squarely at abandoned objects, delving into and getting closer to their elemental being and focusing them at the centre of his composition. Like, for example, an old coat discarded on the ground like waste under the sediments of time, climate and place. The way the coat is laid out and its furry materiality resemble an animal or more precisely what is left after its demise. The organic and the artificial wallow together, alternating with each other and creating a circle of continuity. The work “Patterns”, photographed in the house of the artist’s father in Argentina and relating to his occupation, presents old trousers cuttings hung unused on the wall. The cuttings point to the beginning of a process, to what is about to take shape, but in this case they serve as a sign of the past and the passing of time. Another photograph “reclaims” unused disposable gloves in an attempt to revive them, and another features a piece of industrial lumber floating in a puddle and re-joining the natural chain. Sagorsky’s works preserve a kind of memory that relates to material, texture and personal experience, creating a contrast between beauty and forlornness and between the reality of objects and their potential for changing.
Iris Mendel, Curator