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January 2024


A dialogue between Reshef's art installation and the visionary ideas and actions of her great-grandfather, Moshe Smilansky.

Opening Reception, 19 January, at 10:30 am

Gallery Talk, 23 February, at 10:30 am


Rotem Reshef's work in recent years sheds light on materials that were perceived as waste, unnecessary, or outdated while imprinting them on enormous scrolls of canvas (one of those displayed in the exhibition is 82 feet long). She paints a ghostly presence of phantom memories, of what seems to have ceased to exist, but yet is rediscovered in a different way, drawing attention to the small details that make up personal experiences.


In her most recent solo exhibition, “Family of Earth,” Reshef references the life and work of her great grandfather, Moshe Smilansky, a Zionist leader who advocated peaceful coexistence with the Arabs in Mandatory Palestine and whose social and ideological entrepreneurship marks one of the highlights of an era that seems long gone. “Family of Earth” collides nostalgia with an elegy, on what was then and what has turned out to be the present days of past eras’ vision.



Reshef wraps and soaks “testimonial objects” she collects in paint while leaving their marks before being removed from the canvas. Through the process of wrapping and peeling, Reshef seeks to tell a story and present an experience and ideas - some concrete, some abstract - that will be discovered by the visitors to the exhibition.


On the canvases remains a kind of mental landscape composed of geological fossils, an artistic testimony of collective and personal memories of the past that connect to the turbulent present.



In this processed, fragmentary reconstruction, based on observation and distancing, Reshef invites viewers to meditatively wander along the sprawling scroll paintings and, through their journey, share a universal experience of introspection and healing.










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)


Notes

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.


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


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