Esther Naor – Solo Exhibition
Florentin 45 Gallery
Opening Thurs. 22 November 2012
“Side Effects” – Esther Naor’s solo exhibition, opening at Florentin 45 Gallery, will present a new body of work created during the last year with the gallery’s specific spaces in mind.
The exhibition addresses the body’s betrayal, its aches and illnesses, and offers a poetic and nuanced view of the complex ways of coping, physically and emotionally, with slow and often Sisyphean healing processes. This is Naor’s most personal exhibition so far and is the culmination of an artistic journey that began some two years ago. It began with an installation and apparently abstract sculptural works which made use of white gauze dipped in red wax. Following these works, Naor produced a body of more figurative works comprising wounded wax heads, with generic and identical features, each of which nonetheless bore its own expression and “character.”
The current exhibition, the third part of the trilogy, will present installations, video works and sculptural objects. Heads and facial features are on show here too, but this time they are of the artist. Her self-portrait gazes at us as if through fragments of mirror, loaded with new content and context in each work. The works range from somber to humorous, from personal to universal, from realistic to fantastic, and are charged with irony and sharp criticism aimed at, among other things, the seductive-commercial aspect of the drug industry.
In one of the central works, “Be a Good Girl,” the artist’s face is replicated a number of times on yellow heads which appear like ducks at a funfair shooting range. These heads/ducks are set on a black board and revolve endlessly as they try to avoid the rifle aimed at them from just a short distance away. This violent situation is given a twist when we discover that the rifle is loaded with pills (in Hebrew this is the same word as bullets): antibiotics and pain-relievers. The medication and the shot get mixed up, exchange roles like in a role-playing game, in a way that sharpens the duality and complexity which characterize our relations with modern medicine. At the same time, Naor turns the spotlight on the mutual relations between medicine and gender and investigates them from a feminist perspective.
In another central work, “How Can You Contribute to the Success of the Treatment?,” which even more strongly evokes a twisted funfair atmosphere, we see a horse rising and falling to the muted music of a carousel. The horse is upside down, perhaps to prevent anyone sitting on it, perhaps fighting for its life, while the operating mechanism is exposed to the viewer as if to shatter the illusion and enchantment. This horse has one horn, bringing to mind the vulnerable mythological unicorn, but in this case the horn grows on the side of the head, reminding us of the location of the wounds on the wax heads. The up-and-down motion loses its associative validity, and the image of joyful riding breaks down before our eyes like a sudden, accelerated process of growing up.
The focus on the head and its injuries is like a thread guiding us through the works. In one video work ("Controlled Release ") comprised of three screens, the artist gazes at us from a central screen. A signal writhes like a snake, like the signals typical of monitors in laboratories, twisting round a horizontal axis, moving from screen to screen and thus crossing the head – entering through one temple and coming out the other in an endless loop. The text spoken by the artist is familiar: these are warnings about side effects of medication; but even though it is delivered with the sangfroid of a military spokesman at a time of war, it is in fact a reflexive text that repeats itself again and again. The figure on the screen does not look straight at the viewer, but directs her eyes at the viewer’s forehead, as if she wanted the sound waves to be reflected back to their source instead of being received by the viewer.
In this exhibition, these images of sickness and medication are contrasted with images of childhood, just as the adult portrait of the artist is counterpoised with her portrait as a child. These contrasts characterize the entire exhibition, which draws a complex and crooked line between the innocence of childhood and the imperatives of adult life.
Naor’s works combine a range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, photography and video. In recent years she has concentrated on sculpture and installation, using various items and “ready-made” objects, and materials such as cloth, rice and soft wax. In her work, Naor has investigated feminine, cultural and social stereotypes, and issues pertaining to feminism, identity, belonging and gender. Her works combine the abstract with the figurative, touching on the personal as well as the universal and collective. Among other aspects, they address the feminine present, the consciousness and the body, and offer a sharply critical statement on cultural and social norms and taboos.
In recent years, she has exhibited in solo shows in Israel and Berlin, and has taken part in group shows, fairs, biennials, and international art events in Israel, Canada, New York, Istanbul and throughout Europe.
Curator: Ilan Wizgan
Opening: Thursday, 22 November, 19:00 (closes 5 January 2013)
Florentin 45 Gallery, 45 Florentin St., Tel Aviv
For further information, please contact: Ninel Koren 052-3327637