Artist: Yair Barak (b. 1973)
Venue: Julie M. Gallery, 10 Bezalel Yafe st. Tel Aviv
Dates: Until March 29th
I just read on Yair Barak’s Facebook page a status he wrote about a 90 years old lady who came to visit his show “Speaking Generally” at the Julie M. Gallery. He described the way the lady expressed how sad she found the subject of the show but at the same time her astonishment by the exhibition’s beauty. “It’s so sad” she repeated and “it’s so beautiful” she stated. As I was about to write this post, I read this lady’s words and they touched me because I felt exactly the same and she summarized my own impressions.
The first work which welcomes the visitors, discretely, is a scan of a book title: “Speaking Generally”. It sets the tone for the exhibition which offers both an interpretation of generic places and discourses and a commentary on power and landscape.
Three other works from the same series are dedications which Barak found at the beginning of books which were written by generals: “To Those who will meet this enemy”; “To My Sons And Theirs”; “To the boys who will never come back”. All very general statements, that could have been written by any general, at any time. They are universal. Their positioning on marble stands, which are reminiscent of gravestones highlights the heavy and solemn feeling of the exhibition and the irony that fills it.
Three additional photographs show landscapes of the Valley Forge in Pennsylvania which was an important site during the American Revolutionary War. Barak represents the site today, again a generic description, a chevrolet Corvette in a parking slot in the middle of a pastoral field, a farm and an entanglement of plants. All are printed in excellent definition and are highly aesthetic but they do not reveal or represent the history of this charged place.
Corvette (Vallery Forge)
The Farm (Valley Forge)
Another interesting work is the video “Conclave” which depicts a landscape in Richmond where Barak shot smoke coming out from somewhere in the field. It is unclear where this is taking place and why. The reference here is to the Papal conclave. The smoke refers to a new beginning but also seems to allude to death.
Dichotomies are at the core of the show, beauty and morbidity; power and loss; and all contribute to the powerful atmosphere the artist has created.
All pictures courtesy of the artist and Julie M. Gallery