A site-specific installation

Gordon Gallery displays Ron Arad's exhibition 'All or Nothing.'

RON ARAD (photo credit: ASA BRUNO)
(photo credit: ASA BRUNO)
When is art not art? When is a space not a space? When it comes to Ron Arad, the conundrum continuum could go on and on.
The latest contribution by the illustrious Israeli-born longtime London, UK, resident designer-artist (for want of a better multi-cross-disciplinary bracket) is currently on show at the south Tel Aviv outlet of Gordon Gallery. The title of the exhibition is suitably vague and/or open to wide-ranging interpretation – “All or Nothing.”
So what does the substance versus nebulae balancing act equate to as portrayed in the new exhibition? “Intriguing,” “enchanting,” “entertaining” and even “mesmerizing” are all epithets that spring to mind when you catch an eyeful of the array of coffee table-like objects that account for most of the layout in the spacious gallery space.
“This is a site-specific installation,” explains curator Michal Friedman. “When Ron came here he didn’t know how it was all going to work out, but he liked this space.”
The gallery is, indeed, an endearing facility, with plenty of horizontal room for maneuver and natural light. But what really turns it into an exhibitor- and viewer-friendly art venue is the generous amount of height on offer. The latter naturally imbues the room, and the spectating experience, with a sense of liberating airiness but, in logistical terms, enables you to climb up the back stairs to get a bird’s eye view of the exhibition. Your physical and critical perspective is suitably embellished and extended by the trip upstairs and works well with Arad’s installation.
The core element of “All or Nothing” comprises a couple of dozen mirror-topped low furniture items arranged in a seeming nip-and-tuck pattern. Arad’s designer instincts – after all, that is the most commonly used disciplinary epithet in his context – come to the fore, and the reflective-surfaced objects sit easily in the exhibition space. But it is almost as if you have stumbled across the living room of some off-the-wall professor. The “tables” have flat mirror polished stainless steel tops, and there are others which have been manipulated so that the copper-colored patinated mild steel underside overlaps the tops.
Arad plays around with surfaces, plains and dimensions so that the curvy-edged objects not only snake around each other, but they take 90-degree turns and straddle horizontals and verticals. Sometimes he dispenses with the supports and has bean-shaped mirrors hanging from a wall.
Being reflective, the tables play tricks with your sense of space and dimension in more ways than one. And the juxtapositioning dynamic offers generous cerebral calisthenics leeway. You stand in front of some table, and may even wend your way between a couple, and you know where the tangible objects; are but still, when you cast your eye across the array of elements, you are not quite sure where the corporeal stuff starts and ends – which are the spaces and which are the physical works. It is all a bit surrealistic, especially with the way the table surfaces drape down walls and then resume their more natural horizontal line. Dali’s The Melting Watch springs to mind.
And, of course, mirrors tend to bring “off-camera” things into view, and your grasp of your surroundings changes radically, depending on your optical azimuth. The table arrangement is augmented by an outsized polychromic collage featuring, inter alia, a bunch of contorted jalopies. Arad has a thing about cars and associated accessories. The busy mural, which covers the entire streetside wall of the gallery, is simply large and inescapable as a stand-alone. But it also imbues the mirror tops with a wide world of shades, forms and hues. It is the perfect oxymoronic fusion.
Some of the stainless steel surfaces are perforated, thereby adding yet another visual-material hook but also, in the case of one of the mirrors, spells out – literally – a part of the artist’s ethos. If you train your eye on the right parts of Table 14, hanging on the wall near the entrance to the back office you can make out the Hebrew word klum (“nothing”). It is just one more twist to Arad’s seemingly insouciant approach to his art – again, in Arad’s case I use the term advisedly and positively – and life itself.
As American novelist Jonathan Safran Foer notes in his catalogue musings, trying to pigeonhole Arad’s work is similar to the proverbial soap-grabbing exercise. He notes that Arad’s studio in London is “also a museum and, itself, a sculpture.” Safran Foer lists just a handful of Arad’s creations that straddle expansive disciplinary and esthetic domains. “What do you call someone who makes all of these things?” he poses, citing “a rolling bookshelf” and “the radical redesign of the most important square in Jerusalem.”
At the end of the day, especially, when one is referencing the likes of such free roamers as Arad, words are simply limiting. You’ve got to see, feel and physically get into “All or Nothing” yourself.
For more information: www.gordongallery.co.il