The Psychedelic Protagonist – Sketch for an Abandoned Monument. This is the fanciful title that Ohad Meromi gives to the 2 meter high Styrofoam figure of a man, guitar on his back, head bowed down, displayed at the entrance to his exhibition Creative Circle. This figure, with its mythic-archaic appearance, recalls Nimrod, the Hunter, the iconic sandstone sculpture carved by Yitzhak Danziger in the early 1930s, now in the collection of the Israel Museum.
In conversation, Meromi suggests that this anti-heroic figure may represent a performer moving from gig to gig. But this is not my impression. Given the character of a show which features an amalgam of sculpture, painting, architecture and crafts with its sources in 20th century art and culture, it seems that we have here a Time Traveler, a mythical figure moving, as it were, through the spaces of this gallery, scooping up past highlights in art and culture. Some of his way-stations date from the mid-20th century and beyond when the legacy of socialist Zionism was expressed in the art of this country through meager materials and structures. Another, as demonstrated by the character of Meromi’s drawings and mixed media sculptural groups, is early 20th century Constructivist art, especially the Suprematist paintings of the Russian Malevich who employed basic colors and fundamental shapes to convey the sensation of movement through space.
A notation system of movement developed in the mid 1950s by choreographer Noa Eshkol (daughter of the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol) in conjunction with Abraham Wachman proves to be another stopping point for Meromi’s Time Traveler. Posted in the gallery are examples of Eshkol’s sketches of the human body reduced to an anonymous stick figure capable of three types of movement: rotary, planar and conical. Figural references to this system are evident in Meromi’s geometric-abstract paintings, as well as in several of his 3-dimensional works including the lighthearted piece The Geometry Teacher.
Israeli-born Meromi now lives and works in New York City, but the first years of his life were spent on Kibbutz. This fact may be significant if one is looking for the origin of the ornaments that he hangs, pastes on, or fits into his plywood constructions; among them a geometric relief carved in a soft material; colored panels, a photograph of an archeological site, beads, a hula hoop and castanets. All these items might be found in the form of a wall decoration or plaything in the children’s quarters of a kibbutz.
The image of the Time Traveler surfaces once more in the last of three gallery housing Meromi’s work. Like some Grecian hero on a black-figured vase, this figure, now in repose, is depicted as a silhouette, inked onto the surface of a paper lampshade. On the far wall in the same (darkened) space, Specter II, a stop-motion video loop is also being screened. It shows the revolving model of a storied construction akin to a minimalist stage set. Unlike the other sculptural offerings in this show which have an endearing informality about them, this is a polished work of art. One would like to see it presented in situ, not just on screen.
95 Ben Yehuda Street, Tel Aviv
Till April 20th 2010