Art Review: MINIMALISM Group exhibition

Some works are clearly rich in spatial awareness, by which I mean the clinical simplicity of, say, a single line or color within fields of space.

By DANNY SHORKEND
August 27, 2019 21:58
3 minute read.
Art Review: MINIMALISM Group exhibition

A painting by Eugia Abrahmas . (photo credit: DANNY SHORKEND)

MINIMALISM Group exhibition,
Ein Hod Gallery
Until end of September


A thin pencil marking with the title “minimalism” is written on the wall as one enters the gallery space. This sets the tone for the characteristic neat, austere and precise style to which this exhibition harps back, and indeed the works on offer are clean, simple and without wild, expressive bursts of energy. Yet that is not to say they do not produce a satisfying emotional connection. Indeed, it is a kind of satisfying even equilibrium, a sense of order and calm that is so evoked.

Minimalism refers to a style that emerged in the West in the mid to latter half of the 20th century. While Jackson Pollock’s paintings may rightly be considered the last painting, and then came the pop art revolt against the high seriousness of abstract expressionism, artists such as Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Dan Flavin and Robert Morris saw a way beyond both geometric abstraction such as Newman’s and the so-called color field abstractionists such as Rothko. Eschewing metaphysics, they stripped down painting to its essentials, limiting its expressive content and focusing on pure, formal elements.

While this exhibition is not strictly in adherence with such an exploration, in general one does get a sense of a pared down purity of design and order. This is, however, sometimes broken by the odd more painterly and figurative works on display.

While I find it difficult to simply think of Stella, for example, as dealing only with the objecthood of a painting and prefer to read content therein, so I felt that this exhibition is often marked by mystical content.

Consider, for example, Batia Jancourt’s work with its organized spaces, geometric precision and pure coloration. It appears that there is an other-worldly incantation as if an ark is opening, and one even finds a figure “caught” within this abstract configuration.
This is reinforced by another work, by Rafi Bahalal, whose work is full of scratchings into the surface, etched lines and markings, which are then given content by Hebrew Kabbalistic references, and the surface becomes energized with a kind of primordial light and conceptual play.

Another work, for example, further emphasizes the metaphysical: Eugia Abraham’s painting combines cube-like forms with a sense of galactic movement, subverting minimalist purity with impasto paint. One gets a sense of layers and levels of light attenuated by intervening strips of color and line.

Some works are clearly rich in spatial awareness, by which I mean the clinical simplicity of, say, a single line or color within fields of space that allow the viewer into the work without the clutter of things, what Malevich would have called the entry into the nonobjective world, by which is meant not a reference to the lack of objectivity as such, but the use of art as a portal into a world uncluttered by the familiar world of everyday things.

It is precisely this that renders such an exhibition verging on the mystical. It is a harnessing of the aesthetics of rudimentary design, of a certain kind of pure reductionism that elevates the painterly vision into one of spatial vastness and abstract thought.

Minimalism can also be seen therefore as a precursor to conceptual art, and in fact there is a sculptural piece of a single wine glass with a wooden stick that is electrically set to hit the glass at certain intervals. The gong creates a kind of meditative vibration and elicits both visual and aural qualities that, now circumscribed as an aesthetic event, allow the mind to focus on pure sound and purity of design. The clamor of things dies down.

Clement Greenberg and Clive Bell, both formalist critics of the last century, eloquently would have described such an aesthetic modality as one where nothing from the familiar world of things, of one’s personal narrative, of the news, and so on, needs to be brought into the gallery. It is simply an intense focus on the aesthetic qualities that is significant and that, in fact, may then release one from the tumult of daily existence.

It’s always a treat to visit the pretty surrounds of Ein Hod, and this exhibition will surely add to the experience.


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