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August 2023

Transcription, Articulation, and Respiration in Rotem Reshef: Vista, a new article by Tony Huffman, was published at Whitehot Magazin for Contemporary Art

In Book XI of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, before the archangel Michael and a coterie of cherubim escort Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, he takes Adam up on a summit to show him visions of his progeny and the Earth. Adam bears witness to the sequence of events he has ignominiously put in motion—violence, war, and disease—up until the great deluge. These visions alternate between moments of grief and sorrow for humankind’s failings as well as instances of joy and redemption, which gives Adam some hope for humanity. In the solo exhibition, Rotem Reshef: Vista, taking its name from the nearby Panorama Vista Preserve in Bakersfield, the artist has staged an analogous ecological encounter, allowing visitors to confront the past, present, and future of Kern County’s bountiful, paradisical surrounds. This confrontation is an abstraction, as Peter Frank puts it in his essay for the catalog, of the painter’s own experience of Bakersfield’s history of industrialization (1). In striking tones of amber, ultramarine, algae green, and tan, her vision cascades across 12 works that shroud the intimate exhibition space.

Throughout the exhibition, curated by Rachel McCullah Wainwright, large canvases with diluted acrylic and organic material are affixed to the walls, hung from the ceiling, and arranged in S-shaped armatures in the middle of the room—creating capes, grottoes, and alcoves. Standing in the center of the gallery, spectators assume an omniscient vantage point, with the ability to survey different vistas: forest, desert, river, beach. Since 2014, the artist has been making a series of imprinted works, first starting with plastics then moving on to vegetation. To create these richly textured and strongly indexical scrolls, Reshef spent the summer of 2022 in Bakersfield collecting indigenous (Sycamore, Arroyo Willow, Elderberry, and others) and non-native (Tree of Heaven, Mustard, Mistletoe, and Arundo Donax) plant slips or trimmings from the nature preserve and the Kern River. The undulating, prophetic scrolls—evocative of different biomes—register the imprints of local flora. As well, scrolls speak to portability and peripatetic modes of living. In fact, the uneven nature of the canvases recall the bulging, irregular forms of caves, the temporary domiciles of past societies. The impressions are visual articulations or transcriptions recording a history of devastation and reclamation, “paradoxes within a landscape" (2). Panoramic Vista overlooks not only natural features of the surrounding area but also oil derricks, which had a large impact on how the artist conceived this site-specific suite of paintings.

The buildup of vegetation varies, but in nearly every painterly expanse the vein systems of leaves remain visible. This detail brings to mind notions of vascularity, respiration, circulation, and cyclicality, which is reinforced by the exhibition’s layout. The oval-shaped configuration of the works within the space allows visitor to ambulate endlessly around the various microclimates. There is also a strong sense of movement in these works, imparted both by the arrangement of swirled debris on the dried surfaces and the curvature of walls and scaffolding.

While deciphering the variegated surfaces of these engulfing works, long strands of grass along with the outlines of stems, twigs, and leaves morph into flocks of birds and other creatures. These evolutionary slips or Rorschachian-Darwinian lapses become lyrical silhouettes that remind us of life cycles between oceanic life, plants, animals, and humans’ historic extraction of fossil fuels. One feels submerged in deep time, which is perhaps why it’s difficult to get a sense of each work’s perspective. It’s hard to discern whether we’re viewing a landscape from above, from below, or witnessing the gradual sedimentation of time from the side. In works like Grayish-Green III (2022), visitors seem to be lurking below or floating above a sun-dappled, primordial sea teeming with inchoate life. In others, like Stone (2022), we seem to have washed ashore—vulnerable and exposed.

In the back corner, making use of a square column and hanging scroll, Reshef’s work erupts from its otherwise oblique, poetic approach to chronicling the environmental history of the region. In Carbon Black (2022) and Yellow-Gray Trail (2022) (Fig. 7), oil is simulated in the forms of gushing liquid, billowing smoke, and compressed, fossilized layers stacked along the vertical shaft. The unfurled scroll rests at the feet of museum-goers, implicating us in this accounting of events. Viewers can easily make out recognizable, industrially produced geometric forms within the layers of paint and debris, which contrasts sharply with the other scrolls that contain organic shapes in the form of chips, shards, and flakes of leaves.

In what might be seen as a modified scene from Milton’s epic poem, the installation artist assumes the role of an Old Testament sibyl or prophetess, transporting us to a promontory to glimpse a fraught geological vision. In her catalog essay, Wainwright invokes the Hebrew word tikkun, meaning “to amend or fix” to describe Reshef’s practice. In that sense, the artist is attempting to carry out a palliative function for the region. Yet, it remains to be seen if those in California’s Central Valley are willing to attend to the gentle, polychromatic polyphony arranged by Reshef, or, if this botanical chorus will be drowned out by the creaking crescendos of heavy machinery that dot the storied terrain. WM

So shall the world go on,

To good malignant, to bad men benign;

Under her own weight groaning; till the day

Appear of respiration to the just… (3)


1. Peter Frank, “Rotem Reshef: Vista Recognita,“ Rotem Reshef: Vista (Bakersfield, CA: Bakersfield Museum of Art, 2022), 20.

2. Wall label, Rotem Reshef: Vista, January 26 – September 9, 2023, Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, CA. Seen on July 1, 2023.

3. John Milton, Book XII, Paradise Lost (London: Penguin, 2003), lines 537-540.

Transcription, Articulation, and Respiration in Rotem Reshef: Vista

Tony Huffman | September 2023

April 2023

Israeli artist Rotem Reshef's time-and nature-inspired art is now on permanent display in Detroit

A work of art sets out to transport the viewer; a color plucks an emotion, an image evokes a memory, and an object's physicality jolts our understanding of space and form. This exchange requires participation by way of intrigue or engagement. Yet, the installations of Rotem Reshef are so intentionally designed that upon entering, the viewer has no choice but to surrender to the experience. Initially enveloped by pure scale, nature is overtly conveyed through color and the ghost-like shadows of plant cuttings which make their way through the gradient washes of pigment. Reshef's visual language brazenly unites nature, process, and feminist thought, revealing an inherent interest in eco-feminism.

LINK to video

The body of work displayed in The Bright Side evolved from Reshef's desire to unite her art practice with activism. In Hebrew, the word "Tikkun" means to amend or fix. As a painter and installation artist, Reshef is looking for ways to heal our environment by reflecting on ecological themes. Though united in awareness and process, the specific subject matter addressed varies and is explicitly determined by where the installation occurs. Each installation communicates a value of place by employing plant life from the region and addressing geographically specific issues. Both Vista and The Bright Side pay homage to the surrounding environment and elegantly present the ecological complexities of the Central Valley.

“On display in The Bright Side are two scrolls painted at the Panorama Vista Preserve in Bakersfield, while the last scrolls painted for the VISTA exhibition at BMoA were drying out at my local temporary studio. I went out to the nature I was so familiar with as I was collecting plants there, yet this time I rolled out on the ground the canvases I brought with me and painted directly in nature. It was different than anything I had done before. I used all “the bright colors,” which did not fit the “Vista” canvases that mirrored Bakersfield’s desert climate. Working outdoors and reflecting directly on my surroundings encouraged an expansion of my studio practice's physical and conceptual boundaries.

The stretched canvases in the exhibition are all from the “Imprints” series; all were made using waste vegetation (branches, petals, ferns, leaves, etc.) collected in the streets, parks, and elsewhere the urban surroundings. I imprint these “relics” onto my canvases in a technique that resembles photograms. The plants that were out of the life cycle have a "second chance” through art, while these fossil-like ghostly compositions range from abstractions to more representational figurations.

In the spirit of Ecofeminism, I react to a world that has suffered dramatically from industries and human damage. I suggest a more compassionate approach to coexistence with nature out of respect and acknowledgment of its importance for centuries to come.”

"The Bright Side"

Gallery RAM

614 Kentucky Street

Bakersfield, California 93305

June 2023

Israeli artist Rotem Reshef's time-and nature-inspired art is now on permanent display in Detroit

My new mural, 'Open End,' is now on view in midtown Detroit, MI.

Midtown Detroit Inc commissioned it with the support of Adam Finkel.


Photo credit: Jamie Feldman @dbajamie

Rotem Reshef tells stories of time and nature through art.

Through bold colors and layers-upon-layers of paint, the Tel Aviv- and New York-based installation artist and painter spreads messages about climate change, ecofeminism and human nature with every new creation.

Now, her work is on display as a permanent mural in Midtown Detroit, where it adorns the side of a former dilapidated and run-down building on a busy street.

On West Canfield just across from The Whitney is Reshef’s mural Open End, which went on display earlier this spring. It’s the first of what organizer Adam Finkel, 36, of Bloomfield Hills, hopes will be many more murals and collaborations between Detroit and Israeli artists.

“The idea is to create more connectivity for Detroit and create opportunities on a global level that can be brought into the city,” explains Finkel, who has been featured in the Jewish News’ “36 Under 36” feature for his leadership in the Jewish community and is a JNcontributing writer. “It’s related to similar ideas that have been incubated and launched in the city, like Moishe House.” Finkel helped launch the original Moishe House in Detroit.

The art-centric endeavor — to welcome global artists, particularly from Israel, into Detroit — has been in the works for several years. Yet, like many projects, it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were able to plant the seed this past year for this first inaugural iteration with Rotem,” Finkel says. “We looked at several dozen different artists, and we were able to find a blighted building in need of a refresh of space.”

It was a close collaboration with the city to make the mural, which Finkel hopes will make the neighborhood even more welcoming for commuters and residents a reality.

“They can see a piece of art and not have to look at a blighted building,” he says of the mural, which is in walking distance of Wayne State University and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Midtown Detroit Inc., the nonprofit organization responsible for community development and more in the Midtown neighborhood, was pivotal in bringing the project to life. “They provided the space and the resources to make it possible,” Finkel says.

Midtown Detroit Inc. believes Reshef’s mural will elevate the neighborhood even further, a welcoming addition amongst the many areas of growth Midtown has experienced in recent years, such as a boom of new restaurants, shops and residential buildings.

“Midtown Detroit Inc. believes the beauty of this piece was a great fit for the architecture of this interesting commercial property and elevates the level of design in the district,” explains Susan T. Mosey, its executive director.

The once-blighted building sat peeling and fading until March, when Reshef’s mural gave it a new facelift. Still, the benefits go beyond simply beautifying Detroit’s existing architecture.

Ongoing research from Bloomberg Philanthropies found that cities that incorporate street art are much safer for pedestrians, associating the incorporation of art with slower vehicle speeds and half the amount of crashes with pedestrians.

Installing the mural also created work opportunities. “The banner company utilized was based in the city of Detroit,” Finkel says. “I’m glad that this type of project can help bring jobs to the city.”

While Finkel knows that one artist or one particular idea won’t transform an entire city, the goal is to work block-by-block and steadily create lasting change throughout Detroit.

Connecting Through Art

Finkel, who regularly travels to Israel for networking and community-building initiatives in conjunction with his venture capital firm Orfin, was compelled by Reshef’s deeply emotional style of art. “Her work is often inspired by the story of Genesis and creation,” he says. With her artwork displayed worldwide, he says Reshef’s style “brings vibrancy to the public spaces where it’s installed.”

Reshef’s mural, which is just under 61 feet across and 13 feet tall, is a kaleidoscope of colors, including blues, reds and yellows.

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