At world’s end with Israeli artist Eli Gur Arie

The artist brings his fantastical post-apocalyptic vision to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

By JESSICA VRAZILEK
November 15, 2016 20:28
3 minute read.
Israeli art

Eli Gur Arie’s new art exhibit. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Eli Gur Arie has transformed a gallery in the Main Building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art into a fantastical post-apocalyptic environment.

With uncanny sculptures of hybrid creatures and biomechanical elements, the contemporary Israeli artist (b. 1964) has created a survival surrounding that foretells the ecological and biological consequences of a global catastrophe. The long awaited exhibition, “Growth Engines,” is currently on show at Tel Aviv Museum of Art through December 12.

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While the exhibition title may evoke environmental or pastoral notions, the term “growth engine” is actually economics jargon denoting the means and mechanisms that create impulses for commercial growth.

“In the context of this exhibition, growth engines are not a metaphor, but instead the principal reason for the existence of a new hybridized world” said Gur Arie.

This concept is timely and topical, connecting to present environmental issues like climate change and deforestation. Gur Arie employs the genre of science fiction to realize his post-apocalyptic anamorphosis.

He creates a new realm still in the wake of a global catastrophe; signs of an earlier civilization peek through his projection of futuristic life forms.

“Unfolding before us is a scenario of end times when nature ceases to exist, so what technology imitates is not only a bygone thing, but also its chronicles” said guest curator Doreet Levitte Harten. “His works suggest a new kind of hybrid existence where machines and biological forms can live together and support one another, something in the spirit of ‘the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb.’” Gur Arie’s unconventional themes and distinctive techniques set him apart from the mainstream contemporary Israeli artists, yet it is this individuality that has made such a striking impression on the art world.

“Gur Arie is not affiliated with any school of Israeli art. His works display a unique social, material and conceptual register” said Suzanne Landau, director and chief curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. “[This exhibition] is thus all the more significant, as he represents a different facet in the local cultural-visual landscape, being from here and not from here at the same time.”

Gur Arie studied art at Hamidrasha (The School of Art). Having only attained minor success as a visual artist in the cutthroat Israeli art scene, he decided to enter the film industry in a technical capacity. It was not long before coworkers began to realize Gur Arie’s secret talent for sculpting, and he was soon asked to create large objects for films. This led to prop construction for commercials.

“Working in the commercial world, the idea of consumer culture really started to interest me, and I think this comes through in my artwork” said Gur Arie.

At first sight, Gur Arie’s sculptures seem to be an allegory for today’s capitalist economy. He employs the aesthetic of a consumer society; the smooth, shiny, flawless facades of his hybrid creations evoke the sleek luster of the advertising industry. Nevertheless, a deeper look reveals an alternate reality, the possible consequence of an apocalyptic event of near-absolute destruction, and the only survivors are the surrealistic, biological and ecological mutations scattered throughout the gallery space.

Gur Arie’s complex vision is made up of contradictory elements of an indiscernible nature. The sculptures appear to be partially familiar, organic beings, yet at the same time suggest something entirely more machine-like.

“My work deals with both the fields of science and anthropology” said Gur Arie. “They are interconnected and dissolve into one another: hybrids that are both biological and mechanical.”

Gur Arie meticulously sculpted every detail of his brave new world through a synthesis of different media. According to the artist, his sculptures are assembled and manipulated to appear as though they are computer generated. His works are fantastically hyperrealistic, even upon scrupulous inspection there is no visible proof of the artist’s hand.

Conversely, each object is a result of a time-consuming and painstaking process of carving and transforming materials. In fact, Gur Arie manually constructs every element, and his application of industrial materials lends this machine made quality to his sculptures. The majority of his handmade masterpieces begin as foam blocks that he carves, covers in plastic, fiberglass or carbon fiber and then sands and polishes.

He then paints them with automotive paint. While Gur Arie has recently started experimenting with three-dimensional printing, only two of the hundreds of objects on show reflect this technique.

“Some of the sculptures you see have taken decades to complete” said Gur Arie. “The exhibition itself has been eight years in the making, and I am thrilled that it has now been realized.”

For more info on the Growth Engines exhibit visit www.tamuseum.org.il.


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