NAAMA ROTH / Architexture
4.2.2016 – 26.3.2016
A fantasy of renovation – that's what Naama Roth's orgy of textures and structures could be called, exhibited in her first solo show at the Feinberg Projects Gallery. Some of the works recall a panoramic picture, a landscape schema, while some are totally abstract, erecting layered formal structures. In her video work we see an actor's performance in the popular computer game "Minecraft", where like Roth's work process, he chooses among given textures to build various imaginary constructions: a "white cube" that constitutes a kind of virtual extension of the gallery's actual space, or an impossible monument that echoes the works on the wall. Together with framed works and videos, Roth plays with the different architectonic elements of space – the windows, walls and columns – to create a site-specific installation at the center of which a fantasized construction operates. Roth's interest in provisional weightless structures continues into the space of the gallery itself, with different interventions that she applies to the permanent architectural features of the space: walls, columns and windows.
This thematic use of fantasized structures is completed by the "building blocks" of the show – cheap, generic, industrial materials that frequently serve in home design and furnishings, such as Formica, plastics, MDF, and particularly wallpaper. This artificial and characterless material, whose day to day application is for concealment and imitation, takes center stage with Roth. Its practical function is removed and instead turns into an aesthetic being, an object for observation only. For the first time, it is a target, not a means. That which covers the wall now becomes what hangs from it, frozen inside a frame. This placard-like material, its physical and tonal flatness, infuses the exhibit with a decor-like aesthetics. Roth makes use of this in order to create delicate illusions of movement, volume and depth, with perspective disruptions and Trompe L'oeil games. The careful composition clashes with the material cheapness, to create an interesting internal dialogue between the polished and the crude, between the "eternality" of art and the temporality of degradable material, between refined, as though computerized aesthetics, and the actual work of cutting and pasting with a knife that exposes itself to the inaccuracies and frayed edges that appear on second glance.
Roth's works support an interesting process vis-à-vis her primary artistic influences, which could be included under the umbrella of geometric abstraction: from Josef Albers via the American hard-edge painters of the 60's to Yaakov Agam, to mention just a few. These artists, who sought to stand at the forefront of high Modernism, undergo a process of trivialization with Roth. If the Modernist tradition sought to seclude itself within its works from the outside world, to get rid of referents and to focus on questions regarding the medium itself, on the formalistic language of forms and colors alone, Roth insists on introducing the outside, or more exactly, the inside, the house, into her creation. She uses signifiers that are not empty, but rather charged with symbolic value and the use value. Thus, for example, in a work called 'tribute to Some' she is assisted by an old air conditioner grill to reproduce Agam's kinetic grid technique, that at an extreme angle turns into Malevich's "Black Square", a symbol of pure Modernism (while in the background, one could notice a tribute to Peter Halley). Just as the wallpaper she uses constitutes a cheap, widely available imitation of natural, prestigious materials, so, too, do these works make a retail adaptation of an elitist, exclusive style, a standardization and demystification of a sublime artistic ideal. IKEA brought into the MoMA. "Pure art" is polluted by the mundane, the concrete and domestic, submerged in the banal space of bedrooms in bedroom communities.
Roth chooses to use found materials exclusively, to create abstract collages from industrial ready-mades, to exchange the palette with hardware stores products, and the brushes for an "X-Acto" knife. Just as the space is predetermined and can only be manipulated within a framework of limitations, so, too does she relate to works of "painting" as work within predetermined material constraints. The artist as alchemist, not as one who creates something out of nothing. This choice is likely to echo the artistic act in an intertextual field crammed with influences and ties, in which each creation, including her own works, is already implanted in a context, "referencing", "echoing", "influenced", "quoting", "corresponding", "sampling", "winking", "hinting", makes a parody, satire or gesture. From within this place, Roth chooses as the main material of the show, one that is also not an original source, that has no independent existence, in whose essence it is also only an indication, an inauthentic imitation, a pastiche of the real thing, perhaps as a paraphrase of her own artistic act.
However, Roth's artistic act is not just reflexive, but rather radiates a demonstrative joy in materials and a sincere desire to create a sensual experience. In the trial and error laboratory of her studio, with the obsessiveness of an investigator she seeks the hidden potential in these simple materials, the relations created in encounters between them, the effects they exert on each other, the syntheses, combinations, overlapping and illusions they produce. It is the inherent movement in her art between a creation within a burdensome tradition and a paralyzing discourse, and the desire to find a personal course. Roth's voice, then, is referential and reflexive, yet also playful, curious, creative and witty.
Arnon Ben-Dror, February 2016
Naama Roth, born in 1989, lives and creates in Tel Aviv. She received a BFA in art from Shenkar College (2015). This is her first solo show following her final exhibition at Shenkar. She has exhibited at the Circle1 Gallery in Berlin.