Where the Wild Things Are, the title that the artist chose for her exhibition, is borrowed from Maurice Sendak’s renowned children’s book, which blends a childish fantasy with violence and horror – just like the Afghan war rugs that serve as the point of departure for the video installation exhibited here.
Nevet Yitzhak’s accidental encounter with Afghan war rugs could not but capture her attention and set fire to her creative imagination, for they are infused with the same subject matters that motivated her artistic practice from its nascence.[*]
The Afghan war rugs, a fascinating and unique phenomenon, are a combination of traditional rug weaving technique with a history paved with conflicts and foreign military presence. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late-1970s and a decade of occupation, civil wars and American military intervention have yielded a plethora of war rugs.
Some of the Afghan war rugs are narrative in nature, and feature figurative portrayals of modern weapons, portraits of warriors, war and terrorism casualties, geographical maps alongside various inscriptions that attest to the military and political upheavals. The war rugs, the anti-war rugs and victory rugs, both spectacular and horrifying, have become sought after collector’s items in the West, the subject of research and numerous exhibitions. What started as an authentic expression of the changing reality and landscape, a means for transmitting to the world the horrors of war and occupation, migration and uprooting, an expression of resistance and a means of survival, had been commodified and turned into touristic memorabilia industry. The weaving was performed predominantly by women and the trade by men. They were weaved in the rural areas of Afghanistan, but also in the refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran, and thus absorbed stylistic influences from different traditions.
Many rugs maintain the symmetrical ornamental composition of the traditional Afghan rugs while the decorative patterns were replaced by images of war. Geometrical patterns of rich and stylized flora and fauna were converted into convoys of tanks, helicopters formations, landmines, hand grenades and missiles, which were transformed into a tapestry of decorative patterns.
Rugs of this type served as the point of departure and basis for Nevet Yitzhak’s video installation exhibited here. In this work, the stylized images of Soviet firearms were replaced by three-dimensional models of weapons commonly used by other armies and warzones, and their animation, created by various software, re-instills in them the violent, destructive potential. The labor-intensive craftsmanship of weaving the rugs has been transformed into a no less laborious digital work, and the materiality of the rugs was replaced with a projection of light.
At times it seems that spreading the digital rugs by projecting them along the walls of the gallery brings them back into the domestic intimate space for which they were designed. The illusion is interrupted when the three-dimensional models (taken from computer games and combat simulations) which the artist integrated into the rugs, erupt and realize the qualities of the programs that rendered them when they embark on a carpet war accompanied by sounds of explosions and gunshots, also taken from computer games, wreaking havoc on the non-material material of the rug (the Second World War term “carpet bombing” comes to mind here).
Like other artists before her, Nevet Yitzhak makes use of the seductive nature of animation, as well as the aesthetics of computer games in order to express weighty subject matters in her works.
The manner in which the images of war were assimilated in the tapestry of the rugs and their animation, erasing the original images as a result, are akin to processes of assimilation and integration of culture that entail violence and oppression on the one hand and a struggle to preserve cultural difference and singularity on the other hand. The interest in the construction of cultural identity and gender stereotypes in a postcolonial and post-feminist society, originate in the examination and criticism of the Israeli state of affairs.
The relation between a Western or Westernized culture to an Eastern culture, concepts like conservatism and progress, cultural hegemony and ethnic traditions, high and low, art and craft, localism and globalism, appear in Nevet Yitzhak’s work not as contrasting dualities, but as notions that are interweaved with one another.
Text: Edna Moshenson
3D Animation: Itay Goren
Duration: 8.00 minutes
[*] For instance, in Video Concert, 2005, a multichannel video installation, a rhythmic orchestration of images and war sounds, archive footage of Israel’s wars, with music and images taken from classic Egyptian musicals, and in oriental rugs animation works in several video installations.
Noga Gallery is delighted to present a solo exhibition of the artist Naomi Leshem. The exhibition LANDMARKS consists of a series of new works from 2012/13 alongside earlier photographic series.
Centered comprises 10 photographs, each of a solitary figure – five male, five female–placed in a challenging physical or psychological situation by Leshem. Each was thus forced to confront and cope with the difficult position by finding a sense of order and balance; they each find a way to be centered. While Leshem photographs the figures in stasis, this deceptive calmness is reached only after much struggle. These “struggle to surrender” scenarios address and shed light on multiple issues, namely the questions of gender stereotypes, of the role of the individual in a larger societal context, and of the relevance of a physical place to one’s identity.
Naomi Leshem subsequently traveled around the world, asking strangers for their impressions of the photographs; these foreigners then wrote their responses in their native languages, by hand. Both the sense of calm and the questions brought up by the ten photographs in the series are further reinforced by the abstracted texts and the mystery of what they may mean.
Leshem created a project that is at once international and local, providing a global context that has become increasingly important and inescapable in an ever-changing and complex world. Naomi Leshem’s pairing of the photographs with personal and international responses establishes that contemporary art is often the best conduit to make sense of these changes.
Trust Me 2012
The glossy surface of Leshem’s photographic sculptures is reminiscent of porcelain and appears to be both fragile and precious. The photos, folded and fixed using a clear varnish, establish new connections within the images’ content, telling a story of their own through fragments of their subjects that can be made out and identified.
Way To Beyond 2003/06
Leshem narrates a story of disappearance in seemingly serene and quiet locations, places of vanishing; such as, a remnant of an airplane in the depth of the Sea of Galilee, traces of an airplane that crashed and remained in the sand of a crate in the desert, a motorbike accident in a highway leading to the south of the country, a policeman stabbed to death found in a back side of an apartment building, or a drown man who was found in a swimming pool.
Photographing these landscapes not only describes the moment of its capturing, but also the moment of the death of a human being in the landscape. Therefore, the location was not shot as a landscape but as an observation of what accrued within the landscape.
The series Runways is photographed in a symmetric composition with accurate alignment controlled by linear perspective creating harmony within these photographs. The landscape is burned and dry and the sensation of blazing heat rises from the scorched asphalt in the far horizon. The stillness in which the runways are found creates a high tension reality, this is the moment where we encounter the absence in the afternoon shining sun there is no movement on the burning runways, a place of threatening danger. Alongside the runways Leshem staged young women giving life signal in the still and barren landscape suggesting an axis-mundi, the idea that a pole is an axle of the world linking earth and heaven and symbolizes the dialog and mediation axle between the known and unknown.
The desert is an image that Leshem is constantly exploring, drawing a parallel between the desert space, an organic, infinite and abandoned, fluid space and the hard to define orders, a pre-rational space of spirit and contemplating territories which are not bound to civilized logic and a part of its rules. Nonetheless, Leshem covers the desert landscape with urban measures, and thus turns the image into an arena of confrontation between the rational and irrational. In the imagery of the desert, which is often conceived as monotonous, Leshem leads the gaze into the depth of the frame: a red stain of vegetation, land that rises up to sort of a barrow that creates rhythmus with the hills and wall sands next to it – the desert landscape being discovered not only as primordial and ancient, but also as a spectacle of delicate balances, hushed almost lyrical landscape.
In all of the works there is a representation of Leshem’s observation of the landscape. Some of the works appear strictly as landscapes, however, there will always be another element – immersed gazes into death (in Way to Beyond death landscapes are being depicted; Runways carries a violent and deadly potential in staging the young women in these sites), representations of narratives, contemplations, and associations.
There is a tension between the local and the universal in Leshem’s works. The debate is not the political or social aspects of Israel; instead the basis of the scenery through the Israeli landscape is one of the substances which effects Leshem’s practice.
The work reflects the general and does not remain in the personal state of the artist although it has biographic and autobiographic derivatives. Concurrently, the subjects of Leshem’s work, such as death, adolescence, transitions between different phases are universal even though they are staged in local districts. The concept of time the decisive photographic moment is prominent in her works turns in her works to defuse and captures different times within one image.
Naomi Leshem, born 1963, graduate of Hadassah College, winner The Constantiner Award for an Israeli Photographer, The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel, exhibited in solo and group shows in Israel, Europe and the U.S.
In 2014 Leshem had two solo exhibitions at the Andrea Meislin gallery in New York where she exhibited works from the series Centered and at the Jerusalem Artists House where she exhibited Forty. Leshem is currently participating in the group show Journeys at the Israel Museum. In July 2014 Leshem will participate in a group exhibition at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich.
Her works are in the collection of the Israel Museum Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Norton Museum of Art (Florida U.S), the Shpilman Institute of Photography Tel Aviv, and private collections in Israel and abroad.
The exhibition shows a group of new works, Photomorphosis photographs, from the Mirrors, The Garden (3) cycle.
The works of this cycle have been evolving over the years and The Garden motive is central to them. The fields of meaning of the reflection, the echo and the repetition are fundamental to the images that are embodied in them.
Reflection is a repetition. The echo and the repetition structure, writes Hagi Kenaan, embodies “a possibility that the recurrent and repetitive appearing of the identical – of what looks the same – nevertheless consists in the new and the unexpected. More specifically, what the Mirrors, The Garden cycle of works presences“is not only the principle of repetition, but also the very existence of a dimension of difference. Without such a difference, the homogeneity of the self-identical would leave no room for the possibility of repetition. Repetition requires a difference (or, in philosophical language: the difference is a condition of its possibility)”. This means that repetition, or reflection, which is essential to the Mirrors, The Garden images “never appears as a mere duplication, but always already bears within it the echo of a difference that has inscribed itself into the movement of repetition”.
“Repetition is a movement that creates change and development while internalizing the law of the constant. This means that at its base repetition sustains an irresolvable tension between change and fixation, between heterogeneity and homogeneity. As such, repetition has two apparently contradictory aspects: on the one hand it creates a movement from the one to the many and, beyond any particular multiplicity, to the infinite; but on the other hand, the very condition for this movement – its modus operandi – is its surrender to the absolute hold of the One, the constant, the unchanging. Repetition, or reflection, is a kind of development whose fundamental form of appearance is the manifestation of that which remains itself”; Mirrors, The Garden.
*This exhibition completes Borkovsky’s comprehensive exhibition, Veronese Green, held at the Israel Museum last year, on which his works in the field of photography wasn’t included. The quotations above are taken from Hagi Kenaan essay, “Joshua Borkovsky: Painting as a Meta-Optics”, written for the exhibitions’ catalogue.
Michael Halak’s solo exhibition at the Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art presents the fragility, transparency and impossible structure of broken tools. The cracks are internal and are an inherent feature of an introspective dive. The ensuing explosion is centripetal while exposing one’s inner personal parts. Metaphorically, the light and dark olives embody the fragility of personal existence. The tension created between the fragmented vessels containing olives and oil, which are strewn across the damp saturated earth, indicates an obstinate repudiation of the inevitability of fragmented being.
Halak’s personal view corresponds with the works of British artist Phyllida Barlow, however not at eye level, but rather at ground level where all life’s cracks, which Halak is focusing on, lie wallowing in the ashes of the saturated earth.
Dispersion of the fragments is not incidental but rather predictable. They cannot be gathered up, and can no longer be reconstructed, but can only be used to produce new tools that are perhaps even more resistant to internal pressures. Halak provides an intense and painful glimpse of his innermost parts. This outward view from the inside, allows the observer to feel the vortex of internal pressures, the almost impossible combination of a private and public life, and the Sisyphean task of coping with life’s finiteness.
Similar to the German artist Ulrich Rückriem, Halak is more interested in cracks and parts rather than in the whole. The display of cracks shows the loss of the absolute value of the whole and of unbroken perfection. Even the olives are cracked as if they are participants in a general cracked scene.
The concrete wall, still exhibited as a whole unit, is there to separate the fragments on each side of it: both those broken from within and those broken from without. The chaos exhibited on the different canvases represents an anthology of repressed and forgotten memories of whole tools that were removed from their natural environment. Halak’s metaphors, referred to by Linda Nochlin as “fragments, ruins and mutilation echo the mourning for past grandeur as a whole, which can only be revisited through its remains amidst modernity”1.0 Those fragments beckon us to descend to the saturated earth and observe the fragmented tools – those cracks in our lives.
Halak attempts to cope with the absurdity of what he sees against the wall while expressing his yearning for unity. In a world created out of fragments and the inherent contradiction that spumes forth through the invisible cracks in the concrete wall, Halak suggests correcting a point of view — one that makes meeting with a transparent and imperfect past more feasible.
Curator: Dr. Gabi Geva
1 Nochlin, Linda, (2001), The Body in Pieces: The Fragments as a Metaphor of Modernity, Thames and Hudson
Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art is pleased to present a new solo show by Mosh Kashi, ASH DREAMER, consisting of a distinguished and diverse series of works created over the past four years in oil on canvas.
The exhibition title ASH DREAMER, reveals a great deal of Kashi’s painting stance in recent years which presumes that the innocent gaze on a place or a view and its primal and savage nature, will always be charged with the viewer’s subconscious, conscious, and personal feelings.
In his new exhibition, Kashi intensifies and enhances his profound artistic practice, examining the immensity of nature in its different aspects, both visual and mental: wild fields spread out from one horizon to the next, lonely trees rooted in a wide open and barren space, great dark mountains and thickets painted with great precision. All illustrated in a light neither of day, nor of night.
Mosh Kashi, born in Jerusalem in 1966. Bachelor’s degree from Ha’Midrasha School of Art (1987), MFA graduate at Burton Hall University Leeds, UK (2000).
Kashi has participated in solo and group exhibitions both in Israel and abroad. Two artist books were published on his work, in 2006 and 2012.