A blitz of colors and images

American artist Allison Zuckerman presents a new exhibition ‘To Create from a Cloud’ at the Herzliya Museum of Modern Art

By DEBBY LUZIA
September 26, 2019 18:40
A blitz of colors and images

ALLISON ZUCKERMAN ‘The Letter’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Among the mostly monochromatic shows in the new cluster of exhibitions at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Allison Zuckerman’s To Create from a Cloud shines brightly.

Zuckerman’s large paintings confront the viewer with a blitz of colors and images that spritz the hyperactivity of a millennial in this digital age.

She is only 29 years old and already a rising star in the American art world. Her story is a contemporary Cinderella tale: After earning her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, she moved to New York, got gallery representation and was “adopted” by one of the biggest collectors of contemporary art in the United States.

Not long ago, this trajectory description would have been the culmination of a whole career but this is the digital age, and the unique circumstances that led Zuckerman to success are worth addressing. It wasn’t thanks to any connections in the art world fostered in Chicago, nor thanks to her ambitious mother, who phoned all the top galleries to tell them about her talented daughter (they were not polite).

It was Instagram.

Hundreds of thousands of aspiring artists upload their work onto Instagram but apparently one also needs some luck, and this success story is sprinkled with luck.

Zuckerman’s unique images caught the attention of New York art dealer Mark Wehby, who sent her a message and ended up showing her in his Chelsea gallery. Then came the Rubells, regular visitors to the Kravets Wehby Gallery and among the most important patrons of contemporary art in the US. They loved her work, and from that point things moved quickly.

They visited her tiny apartment/studio on the same day, acquired 23 pieces, and six months later, in the summer of 2017, Zuckerman found herself an in-house resident at the Rubell’s huge space in Miami. There she created 10 huge paintings that were acquired by the Rubell Family Collection. The four largest works were shown at the Rubell’s museum during Art Basel Miami Week at the end of that year.

When the Rubells put their hands on a new artist, the art world pays attention. In the last two years Zuckerman has had solo shows in Denmark and the US. This is her third museum show. She has also participated in group shows in New York, Brussels and Milan. The price of her work has doubled, and by the laws of the art world, under the wings of the Rubells, they will continue to rise.

So how does a rising star like Allison Zuckerman find herself in Herzliya?

The Rubells have a very close friend: Tami Katz-Freiman – one of Israel’s most respected curators – who currently lives in Miami. They met in the ‘90s and since then have become like family. 

Apart from being chief curator of the Haifa Museum of Art (2005-2010) and curating the Israeli pavilion at the 57th Venice Art Biennale, Katz-Freiman has curated numerous group and solo exhibitions in prominent museums in Israel and the US. The Rubells consult with her regularly.

TAMI MET Allison during her residency at the Rubell’s collection in 2017 and fell in love with her work. She suggested a solo show to Dr. Aya Lurie, chief curator of the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, who identified the talent and finally, after two years, found the right context in which to show her work, with Katz-Freiman as the curator.

Zuckerman was born at the cusp of the digital age but is deeply embedded in it. She creates collages of images from different periods and styles. It’s as if the whole history of art gathers on her canvases: From the ancient times until today, she juxtaposes old masters with Disney, Picasso, Twitter, Warhol and emojis.

Generally speaking, her work is inspired by classic paintings focused on nude women. She usually uses figures in seductive poses that were painted by men and represent what is known now as the “male gaze.” Zuckerman wishes to retell art history by transforming the vulnerability of the original figures into an empowered version, created by a woman artist in the digital age.

Her visual language is dense and mirrors the overload of images typical of the world we live in.

The process begins on the web, where Zuckerman scans different sources for her images, some high-quality, others grainy, noting that these differences have become an inherent part of our visual culture. After creating the composition on her computer, it is printed on canvas and then she paints over it. She could have chosen to leave the print as it is but as she says, “The result is too flat, and although I am very much part of the digital culture, I am also a human being and I don’t want to lose the human touch.”

Zuckerman studied painting, and the hyper-realistic work she did at art school shows professional skill. It is important to her to maintain the relevance of painting in the 21st century.

Her work presents a chaotic, colorful, grotesque pastiche, in which subject and background are treated the same, and the spectator is left to decipher the many references in each piece.

The show in Herzliya is part of a cluster titled Portrait Time I, offering different perspectives on the subject of identity. The theme chosen by curator Katz-Freiman and Zuckerman relates to violence against women. The works were inspired by paintings of strong women like Judith in the story of Judith and Holofernes, or Susanna and the Elders from the biblical Book of Daniel, subjects painted by many great masters. This theme is extremely relevant in the era of #MeToo, and Zuckerman imbues her women with much strength.

Portrait time I is showing at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art until January 25, 2020.

The writer is the owner of Stern Gallery Tel-Aviv, and independent culture researcher and art correspondent.
Subscribe to her art newsletter online at sterngallery.art/mailing-list.


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