Dina Shenhav | MERKAVA
When Paolo Veronese was accused of blasphemy in his paintings, as he appeared before the Holy Tribunal by the Holy Office he said in his defense: “Painters take the same poetic license that poets and madmen take.” A winning argument, and to a large extent, a prophetic and groundbreaking one. Indeed, future generations of artists have increasingly allowed themselves strange, absurd, enigmatic things, while we, the viewers, have learned that we do not necessarily have to solve every conundrum.
For me, Dina Shenhav’s whitish, almost ivory-like, foam sculptures are such unsolved conundrums. Why foam? What does it signify? And actually, why stone, wood, or bronze? Foam is not sacred, that much is clear. And it is not really solid: a brittle rather than hard solid, perforated, airy, maybe even ugly? Touchable or off-putting? Perhaps both. Foam is a modern material, but Shenhav works with it as if it were traditional. She carves the material, whittles, the artist turned craftswoman. Indeed, for years Shenhav has been creating work areas out of foam – kitchen, a shoemaker’s desk, a corner in the home of the hunter, the woodcutter, the caretaker. so many masculine work spaces.
Is the work about gender? Of course, gender too. The facial features of the Soldiers in the paintings could have been of young girls. The masculine tank is “feminized.” The large cannon is softened. Still, it bursts through the wall. Where does this aggressive scene take place? This is an Israeli tank … Is the work political? Of course. The ghost of war. A soft rumor about tough things that go on. Indeed, alongside the white work areas, Shenhav also presents dark apocalyptic environments of sooty ruins and charred desolation. Are these works post-traumatic or pre-traumatic? In this unsolved conundrum of producing foam replicas of familiar objects, there is an absurd stubbornness that we do not need, and perhaps cannot, solve “completely,” a determination that bursts into the mind like a tank. Is the piece a self-portrait of sorts? A great violent force broken down into a diligent “cut and paste” action. Seemingly everything is exposed, yet a lot is concealed.