curated by Tami Katz-Freiman
Anthony Japour (AJ) is an independent curator, private art dealer and owner of AJ Japour Gallery. The gallery deals in contemporary art with a focus on the Chinese Contemporary Art Movement and its relationship to the pillars of Western Contemporary Art. Since 2003, AJ has produced numerous art exhibitions and installations in Miami and South Florida. In addition, the Gallery’s secondary mission is to support organizations dedicated to the health, education, and welfare of children. AJ has served on the Fine Arts Board and the Cultural Arts Council of the City of Miami Beach.
In one of the boldest and most ambitious exhibitions to date in Miami, works by twenty-four, mostly Israeli artists shine under the careful eye of the Bass Museum’s guest curator, Tami Katz-Freiman. And despite its mere size and scope, it is a restful exhibition that calms the mind and enriches the appreciation of the countervailing forces of nature and culture.
Taking inspiration from a 1790 passage from the Critique of Judgment by Immanuel Kant, the exhibition shows that while nature has always inspired artistic creation and seems to embody all of man’s dreams, it can also be our worst nightmare. Hurricane Sandy which just hit the New York City and the surrounding area as one example of the devastation inflicted by Mother Nature.
As stated in the Katz-Freiman’s catalogue’s essay- Nature Has No Copyright- and referring to our hyper-technological age where artists are reflecting on artificial environments in their work, “One cannot imagine a more appropriate venue for this exhibition than Miami- which was built as a consequence of the large-scale draining of swamps into artificial lakes and canals. As a city in which nature has been processed to extraordinary degrees of synthetic cultivation, it is a site where the gap between the natural and the artificial has been completely blurred.”
Space limits a comprehensive review of all of the artists’ works included in the exhibition— Boaz Aharonovitch, Einat Arif-Galanti, Aziz + Cucher, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and Ariane Michel, Blane De St. Croix, Rose-Lynn Fisher, Ori Gersht, Meirav Heiman and Yossi Ben Shoshan, Hilja Keading, Freddy Shachar Kislev, Sigalit Landau, Dana Levy, Tobias Madison, Richard Mosse, Gilad Ratman, Samantha Salzinger, Tomer Sapir, Yehudit Sasportas, Michal Shamir, Uri Shapira, Jennifer Steinkamp, Gal Weinstein, Wendy Wischer, and Guy Zagursky.
The following is based on text written by Tami Katz-Freiman in the catalogue for Unnatural, published by Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, 2012.
Bass Museum of Art
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Meirav Heiman (Israeli, b. 1972) and Yossi Ben Shoshan (Israeli, b. 1965)
Heiman and Ben Shoshan have created one of the most virtual and unnatural creatures in the exhibition. “Like an immobilized monster imprisoned in a cage, it was transported from Israel to Miami in an aquarium that is far too small to accommodated its size.” By its mere size of over 54 feet, the sperm whale is the exhibition’s main attraction and is the largest of all toothed whales and the largest living toothed animal. “Although the mammal’s gaze communicates empathy, pain, distress and intelligence, it also symbolizes the vast, threatening powers of nature- like a mythological monster whose capture and subjection provoke a sense of human control and pride”, wrote Revital Peretz Ben-Asher for the work’s exhibition at Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Israel, 2009. Heiman was educated at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and in 2008 was awarded a Prize for Work of Art by Israel’s Ministry for Education and Culture
Sigalit Landau (Israeli, b. 1969)
Landau whose work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Venice Biennale was the star attraction of the exhibition for me. Landau’s works, in which nature plays a central role, are imbued with deep symbolic meanings based on contrasts and extreme states. As I entered the exhibition, I was struck by this video piece asking myself if the imagery on screen was plastic or real. As I soon realized by watching the entire video (twice!) DeadSee, 2005 strings , 2005 strings 500 watermelons along a 750 feet-long cord to create an 18-foot spiral raft that floats in the salt water of the Dead Sea. Some of the watermelons were smashed open so that their red flesh appears to be bleeding. One by one, as if guided by an invisible hand, the watermelons uncoil in a spiral motion from the center outwards in a loop with the artist’s naked body following the gradual disappearance of the watermelons.
The Dead Sea has specific meaning in an Israeli context, Katz Freiman explains; the area is the lowest in the world and is located on the Syrian-African rift. The highly saline water is viewed as having cleansing powers, creates stunning salt-crystal formations, yet is also a symbol of destruction and annihilation.
Sigalit Landau was educated at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and the Cooper Union School of Art and Design in New York. She represented Israel in the 1997 and 2011 Venice
Biennales and has been exhibited at documenta 10 (1997). In 2004 she won the Beatrice S. Kolliner award for Young Israeli Artist from the Israel Museum, and in 2008 she had a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Dana Levy (Israeli, b. 1973)
Levy’s work investigates the social, political, and historical dimensions of life in the Middle East with an emphasis on themes of memory, identity, and the relationship between the wild and the cultivated, the natural and the unnatural.
In The Fountain, a crane uproots an old pine tree from a pastoral lake and slowly carries it up in the air. The tree constitutes a Romantic metaphor for a state of being uprooted and of migration, detachment and homelessness. The work alludes to Marcel Duchamp’s renowned Fountain, 1917, a work similarly centered on a decontextualized object with a new significance in an artistic context.
Levy completed her BA at Camberwell College of Art in London and a post-graduate degree at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. She has had numerous solo and group exhibitions including the Haifa Museum of Art in 2010.
ehudit Sasportas (Israeli, b. 1969)
The subject of Sasportas’ video and drawings The Lightworkers, 2010, is a swamp in the vicinity of Hamburg Germany which triggered the artist’s curiosity when she came across it in a German newspaper. The somber landscape, illuminated by a flash of light is a patchwork of images featuring a forest in the swamp. The idea that the swamp refuses to dry up took over the artist’s imagination and came to be perceived for her as a wound that is unable to heal. The interest of an Israeli artist in a German forest carries metaphorical charge- a dreamlike fusion of formalism, mysticism, and politics.
Sasportas was educated at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Cooper Union School of Art in New York, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2007, Sasportas was chosen to represent Israel in the 52nd Venice Biennial and has had numerous solo shows and been part of international group exhibitions.
Courtesy of the artist, Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv and Galerie Eigen + Art, Leipzig/Berlin
Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
Using a high-speed digital camera, Gersht creates video works using art historical references and important paintings from the art historical cannon. He challenges the notion of photography as the medium of truth. The work on display, Falling Bird, 2008 is drawn from a still life painting by Jean-Siméon Chardin and shows in slow motion an upside down pheasant hanging by a thread diving (or falling) into a dark pool of liquid. The work is hypnotic and mesmerizing.
Gersht received his BA in Photography, Film, and Video at Westminster University in London and MA at the Royal College of Art, London. He is a professor at the University of Kent in England. Gersht has been widely exhibited at such venues as the Tate Britain, London; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC; Beijing International Art Biennale, Beijing; Guggenheim Museum- New York; The Jewish Museum in New York; and most recently at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.