Michal Helfman / Doctor! Doctor!
Oct 28 – Dec 04, 2010
For her third solo show in Sommer Contemporary Art, Michal Helfman presents an all-encompassing installation that combines sculpture, drawing and video.
Iron gates block the entrance to the gallery space, as if appropriated from a stage setting. The shape of the gates resembles that of a broken glass and also that of desert landscape – a cross-section of cracked mud, mountains and sun – all of which are recurring themes in Helfman’s work of recent years. The only way to pass the gates is to walk through them and thus we are left trapped in Helfman’s world, in a space full of happening.
The exhibition includes four monumental color drawings in which the strongest presence is that of the body. The body plays a double role in Helfman’s work – as it engages in a “civilized” activity like playing the cello or participating in a dance lesson on the one hand, and as its physicality is exposed on the other, left to be seen as mere flesh and bones. It is thus that the body brings about the presence of civilized culture and barbaric primitivism all at once, blurring the distinction between desire and delirium. The technique that Helfman uses is a technique that we recognize from children craft, where glowing color fields are covered with a surface of black crayon, only to be later engraved on so that the under-layers are exposed. This technique of exposure echoes the process that the body undergoes. Dark and glowing colors mix together to instill in the drawings a nightmarish mood – simultaneously sinister and enticing.
An additional wall presents portraits that Helfman created in the past year titled The Plague. Helfman dots the white paper in black charcoal and then connects the dots with lines, again drawing from the techniques of child painting. A unique portrait appears from the schematic and random process, much in the same way that the plague attacks its victims systematically and randomly.
Three sculptures function as independent happening zones that have been in some way altered or damaged by the hand of man. The (locally) well-known photograph of Peter Merom, taken from his photography album that documents the Israeli desert strip of the Negev, is presented in a glass cube, circling a fossil in a cut-out form of a topographical spiral. The Negev strip, that has become a symbol for the hubris of the Zionist endeavor of settling the land, here receives a life of its own as a plot of nature that retaliates against its destruction.
Fossil forms also appear on the large mirror wall, this time surrounded by cracks and fissures. As remnants of ancient times, the fossils either break or appear from beneath the cracks of the mirror, where today’s reality is reflected, fracturing the wall as if by violent struggle.
In the floor piece, Helfman’s preoccupation with uncovering the surface of objects is again evident. The circle of sand becomes a deserted site of a children game, where territories are marked by carving in the sand, until one is left without a territory to stand in and is forced out of the game. The seemingly innocent activity is given a twist as the slit circle of land is brought inside the sterile exhibition space, with a knife stuck in its core.