Karl Haendel / Feeble Synapse

Oct 07, 2021 – Jan 15, 2022

Sommer Contemporary Art is pleased to announce the opening of Karl Haendel’s solo exhibition Feeble Synapse, at our gallery space in Tel-Aviv, located on the first floor on the left at Herzl 16 on Thursday, October 7th. Opening hours: Tues-Thurs- 11:00-18:00, Fri- 10:00-14:00.


Based in Los Angeles, conceptual artist Karl Haendel (* 1976, New York) is well known for his large-scale graphite drawings, installations and public projects. For the past twenty years, he has been developing a droll and idiosyncratic vocabulary of drawing, displayed like pieces of language arrayed on the wall, with which to explore how culture produces values and beliefs. Haendel uses the virtuosity of his drawings, which are often rendered in precise photo-realistic detail, their juxtaposition and placement in the gallery, to slow viewers down and challenge us to think about how images and texts shape our conceptions, with a particular emphasis on the overlap between the social, political, and personal realms.


On the occasion of the exhibition “Feeble Synapse” at Sommer Contemporary Art, Haendel has created a site-specific installation featuring recent works, including drawings made during the first few months of global quarantine. Through the humble materials of pencil on paper, the artist implores the viewer to ask questions about visuality, vocation, freedom, and personal choice. For example, in “My Father’s Nikon”, a large photorealistic drawing of a 1960s era Nikon F, the world’s first practical photojournalism camera (which brought us images of the counterculture, the Vietnam War, and civil rights and student protests), the artist ties his cultural inheritance of western image-making to his own personal inheritance of a camera from his father (who once used it as a professional photographer).

On an adjacent wall is hung “Covid Dance Party”, Haendel’s studied graphite rendering of a famous German techno club, but shuttered by Covid, is shown empty of revelers. The artist’s delicate pencil work is not respected and is in fact thoroughly defaced with black magic marker, in an act of symbolic patricide, by the artist’s own daughter. However, this vandalism is also an act of ingenuity, as his daughter fills the paper with joyful doddles of characters and animals dancing and playing music in the abandoned space. It is a fully realized make-believe world, highlighting art’s ability to transcend everyday reality, even when that reality is a pandemic. Through the juxtaposition of these two drawings, and throughout the exhibition as a whole, Haendel uses drawing to weave together personal experience, visual culture, and shared history, questioning how we form our identities, attitudes, and beliefs.


Karl Haendel received a BA from Brown University in 1998 and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2003. He also studied at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His work has been included the Biennial of the Americas (2015), the Whitney Biennial (2014), Biennale de Lyon (2013), and Prospect New Orleans (2011). He has had solo exhibitions at Museo de Arte de El Salvador, San Salvador; Locust Projects, Miami; Lever House, New York; LAXArt, Los Angeles, MOCA, Los Angeles; the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City; and The Box, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus. His work is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; The Guggenheim Museum, NY; MOCA, Los Angeles; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, MA, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway.