Israeli Artist Rami Maymon Recreates the History of Art in his Homeland
Installation view of “Rami Maymon: Phonetic Transcription” at Hezi Cohen Gallery, Tel Aviv. Courtesy Hezi Cohen Gallery and the artist.
The exhibition moves from the craftsmanship of ancient civilizations, through the influence of European modernism, to today, which has its own distinct personality—a sort of confluence of the two. Taking cues from art history and appropriating material at hand, in “Phonetic Transcription” Maymon employs photocollage, ceramics, and assemblage to document this history.
Known for his photographic works, Maymon, who won the Rudin Prize for Emerging Photographers in December, has gathered together various media in one space. Together, the works take on a spare, stoic aesthetic, achieved through a limited color palette and an ordered, taxonomic-like presentation.
One sculptural work is comprised of shelves displaying handmade pottery; their forms are inspired by pieces acquired during archaeological digs in the region, yet are reduced in scale and brightened with modern coloring. Another wall-hung work is made up of Ficus leaves picked from an area near Maymon’s studio, dipped in ink, and affixed to canvas. Their beautifully undulating shapes evoke both bird wings and lips, but also represent traditional methods in art being combined to modern and local materials.
Maymon’s photomontages and collages also destroy, rebuild, and take cues from the works and historical auras of their subjects, often mounted on black or blue carbon paper. A series of collages combine black Matisse-like cut-outs with pages taken from Haim Gamzu’s Hebrew book of ancient artifacts Painting and Sculpture in Israel (1957). In Untitled (Head of a Girl) (2014) Maymon has removed the face from an ancient sculpture of a girl holding up her face with her hands, while in Untitled (Nimrod) (2015) he playfully abstracts a sculpture of Nimrod, the Biblical king who is associated with building the Tower of Babel.
While Maymon is working in a site-specific manner that ties his works to his Israeli identity, the artist also tells a greater story. By showing how he can respond to local materials and narratives, he also makes the point that all practicing artists, anywhere in the world, work by manipulating and reimagining the remnants left behind by their art historical predecessors.
“Phonetic Transcription” is on view at Hezi Cohen Gallery, Tel Aviv, Feb. 12–Apr. 25, 2015.