Tsibi Geva: Where I Come From
September 21, 2019 - January 25, 2020
The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art

The three components of Tsibi Geva’s large installation, which together make up a spectrum between painting and sculpture, collectively form a complete mental space. The connections forged between them reflect Geva’s view of the internal refractions of existence in the world as a conceptual, physical, and emotional phenomenon. The pieces on view contain in compressed form the formal and ethical lexicon developed by Geva over five decades, and may be seen, figuratively, as an artistic self-portrait. This idea also finds expression in the title of the exhibition, taken from Avot Yeshurun’s poem “How Have I Gotten Here, That Is a Question.”

These works’ constituent elements are all founded on the visual and material index that Geva has formulated over five decades of artistic endeavor. Various concepts serve as keys his vocabulary and world. His work often contains references to “vernacular architecture” – namely, architecture without architects, which grows at a given location over a period of centuries, from the local materials and its climatic and cultural needs. In conversations with him, the notion of a bricoleur frequently arises, as expressed in Claude Levi-Strauss’s book The Savage Mind, in reference to someone who improvises and quickly fashions a shelter from materials found at hand. Geva frequently makes use of “abandoned objects” (another recurring theme) – that is, readily available, typically local objects whose appearance and original function somehow embody for him certain fundamental formal and conceptual aspects. In all of these, he grapples with the formalistic codes – both aesthetic and content-related – of Modernism. “I grew up as a son of a Modernist architect, a strict aestheticist in the Bauhaus tradition,” he recounts, “and for many years I was unaware of what that had wrought within me. Today I understand, and seek to investigate precisely what my father hated, rejected outright, and continually fought against: imperfection, aesthetic and cultural improvisation, eclecticism, political and social chaos. Today, I am drawn to the unwanted castoffs that are thrown away, like waste or as anthropological findings, and work within them.”

A bale of compacted tires, freshly delivered from a recycling plant, is a throwback to a series of previous installations by Geva, where he covered the exhibition walls with tires that were attached to each other with cable ties. However, in his current exhibition, the tires appear in an entirely different “material phase”: bound up, on their way to or from somewhere else, they form a raw and solid sculptural entity. The bales of tires contain the compressed energy of large and opposing forces: the rotational motion potential inherent in a wheel; its pliable nature as a shock absorber; the potential for violent eruptions of civil disobedience when the tire is used for demonstrations and roadblocks; and painful, intimidating binding with cable ties.

The northern wall of the hall, where the stairs leading to the upper level of the museum are located, is covered with dense lines and black patches that have been sprayed on, like erased graffiti. This use of spray paint, typical of street art, repurposes it ironically for erasure and blacking out. The act of erasing is suggestive of something potentially explosive, defiant and provocative. It is a painting full of nothingness, which is also a tribute to the modernist tradition of monochromatic abstraction. The blackening of the white wall is like a challenge by the voices of the street against the regime of modern culture epitomized in the white cube.

Approximately forty paintings of various sizes are mounted on an inclined frame. Together they form a huge painting that leans against the southern wall. The freehand path lines that are drawn on it, splitting apart like cracks in shattered glass, recall the repertoire of patterns that has recurred in Geva’s paintings since the 1980s, which are organic and irregular: walls of natural stone, lattices, terrazzo floor tiles, keffiyehs, interwoven branches, or mapping methods. The painted wall is made up of discrete paintings that display Geva’s wide-ranging painterly vocabulary. In addition, despite its monumental size and its perception as a painting that is also an object in space, its edges remain open-ended and it does not cover the entire display wall. In this respect, it references the flat nature of Modernist painting, which reveals how it is made and the implicit structure of the artistic act.

 

The exhibition is generously supported by Dalia and Aryeh Prashkovsky; Yehudit and Roni Katsin; Monique and Max Burger; Adi Borkin
Acknowledgments: Tyrec Tire Recycling Industries, Lital Feldman; Reuven Transportation; Rami Shemesh Construction

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