Israeli Artist's 'Primitive' Work Is Nothing But

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'Impact, mirror,' 2014. Photos courtesy Alon Segev Gallery

The primitive aspects of human beings – such as emotions, aggression, dynamics of stability and instability, balance and imbalance, and the contrast between love and pain – are the main themes of the collection of works in Arik Levy’s exhibition “Primitive Components,” now showing at the Alon Segev Gallery in Tel Aviv (6 Rothschild Boulevard).

For Levy, who has lived in Paris for the past two decades, the collection of elements he has chosen to present in this solo show are meant to serve as a kind of mirror that enables everyone who views it to see something about themselves; it serves as a springboard to a very individual experience. “It’s a zoom-in process to find that most basic element. It’s a search for the points of interface between the idea of mental and physical balance. The mind’s ability to repair and install different components in the place that is right for us. The subconscious, as an uncontrolled muscle, rearranges and crystallizes situations that nearly got out of control,” says Levy.

The exhibition includes sculptures, paintings and copper prints. The title of the Rockwood Formation series directly alludes to the rocky quality of the works, but the six sculptures in the series only look like vertical columns of rocks, piled one upon the other in a very tenuous state of balance. Three of the sculptures are actually bronze casts and the other three are made of wood, but all appear to have the form and texture of rock.

Levy builds each piece separately and puts them together in different combinations in each sculpture to create something that resembles “a new kind of nature, a genetic code that comes from a civilization that we don’t know,” as he describes it. Looking like they’re about to topple at any moment, they call to mind the zen towers sometimes seen next to riverbeds. “It looks like the pieces were just placed that way, piled atop one another, by somebody who just left,” he says.

Some of the other works in the exhibition fall somewhere between painting and sculpture, and also include elements of design. The two works entitled “Love Me Tender” feature the outline of a heart in a wooden frame. The heart is really gold-plated barbed wire with extra-long barbs. The artist says that both of these eye-catching works, one large and one small, allude to all the common expressions and social codes concerning the pain that comes with love, the hurt of a broken heart, and so on.

Another series of works that combine several types of media is “Impact Composition,” comprised of polished silver and bronze panels perforated with bullet holes created when Levy fired a .44 Magnum at them. Each panel has a different number of bullet holes, in a different order. They are arranged on shelves and give a somewhat distorted reflection of the person observing them. From a certain angle, it appears that the person gazing at the steel panel has just been shot. From another angle, the panel appears to attest to violence that was perpetrated on someone else nearby. Levy says this work is not meant to express a specific political stance, but more of a manifest about our regional conflict, in which we both shoot and are shot, a comment on the “infinite duality of the process that is under our control, and the tools we have at our disposal, such as a look, a word, or a gun.”

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