Opening Reception: Thursday, 26 January 2023, 7:00 - 9:00 pm
Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, California
"Vista" is a site-specific painting installation that was created during several trips to the fascinating city of Bakersfield in Kern County, CA, almost mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The city is undergoing massive economic, environmental, and demographic transitions; my exhibition “Vista” dives deep into the complex landscape, with the local oil industry-based economy on the one hand and the ecological preservation and restoration efforts on the other.
Curator: Rachel McCullah Wainwright
"With 'Vista,' Rotem Reshef portrays Bakersfield – from the inside out. Reshef does not simply look at the city, she re-embodies its salience. 'Vista' brings forth the inner dynamic of a municipality that encompasses and embraces both nature and industry, a town in which extractive commerce is integral to the ecosphere. Reshef does not judge this reality, but recapitulates it, presenting – re-presenting -- its bifurcated but intertwined material dynamic as a physical presence, a textured form whose uncanny syncresis can be physically conjured through aesthetic investigation – and vice versa."*
"In her painting installations Reshef looks for circumstances, historical and contemporary. And in those circumstances she identifies social and economic factors not as antagonists but as coeval practices, practices which may or may not be harmonious but which can complement one another in current contexts. Reshef alludes to discrete but simultaneous conditions and standpoints, not to investigate them so much as to share them with us so as to prompt our own investigation. Reshef provides the metaphors, we pursue the comprehensions."
"As in all her previous installations, Reshef has built “Vista” out of studio and at-hand materials, the latter taken from or based on the organic and inorganic substances that comprise the spaces and the circumstances in question. She weaves tapestries of vegetation, balanced with expanses of petroleum products (e.g. plastic wrappings, acrylics, fluids). Nature is described in this context as a sensuous web – and so is industry. We may personally prefer the feel of sticks and soil to sticky oil, but the artist brings forth the haptic quality of everything comprising the equation. We must feel as well as see our way to an evaluation which itself points to an at least temporary resolution."
"Reshef’s approach, then, is to render the Panorama Vista, and Bakersfield and environs more generally, as both an abstraction, a rendering of visual and material essences, and a real (if not quite natural) depiction. The character of the place is defined by the character of the space and its myriad substances and components. But we do not see houses or birds or oil rigs or flowers in Reshef’s “Vista,” we see the ambience they contribute to. This ambience is a distillation of life into a body-enveloping visual flow, a granular tapestry that presents itself as a synecdoche for the intricate realities of Bakersfield. "
"Reshef does not simply work like a painter, she thinks like one – and very deliberately cultivates the mystique of observation and rendition that underlies the act of painting. “The scenery is striking,” she writes of Bakersfield and its region. “Hills and valleys in all shades of yellow, brown and gray, with strokes of green and dots of black oil pumps throughout, scattered around.” This aestheticized point of view permits her, and us, a less judgmental grasp of the socioeconomic realities on which she reflects, pointing her gaze and ours at an analysis pretty much unburdened by ideology, or at least untethered to it. She is more artistic reporter than polemicist, setting for us the scene that exists rather than the scene that should. This is not to claim Reshef is naïve about the landscape she has put herself before, nor that its protagonists are. The topography, its glories and its scars, readily evinces the drama of its siting, and “Vista” brings attention to this drama by articulating it in a more focused and rarefied way – a way that relies on the nomadic nature of both artist and art object to bring a fixed site forward."
"And yet, Reshef provides us with a grand and vital spectacle, vast and encompassing like its cumulative subject, presenting today’s Bakersfield and today’s Kern County not as sites of contention and conflict, potential or actual, but of coordination and compromise. She may not make a peaceable kingdom of her panorama, but in reviving the cineramic grandeur of pre-modern panorama painting itself, Reshef reminds us that our post-agricultural – perhaps counter-natural – struggles with and over the land emerged with the Industrial Revolution and persisted in the post-slavery colonialism that determined the arc of human history in the 19th century. By manifesting an understanding of given realities as the residue of human decisions both two centuries and two months old, Rotem Reshef reveals herself as that most abstract of artists, a painter of time."
* From a text by Peter Frank, ROTEM RESHEF: VISTA RECOGNITA
Bakersfield Museum of Art
1930 R St. Bakersfield CA 93301