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The exhibition West St. features recent oil paintings by Avital Burg. In these compositions, the artist refines her long-term engagement with self-portraits and still-life paintings, especially flowers and cardboard boxes.
These images of portraits or bouquets take up almost the entire compositional surface, with the addition of few details. Most of them are relief-like paintings that seem to be bursting out of the canvas into the gallery space. It is interesting to note the apparent contrast between the crowded compositions and the sculptural texture, which is enhanced by scratches and the traces of manual labor and knife work, and between the delicate subjects of these works: flowers, close-ups of the artist’s face, and fragile boxes.
The exhibition title, West St., is borrowed from that of one of the paintings, which is named after a typical street name in an American town. Burg, who lives in Brooklyn, seeks out marginal, forgotten urban wildflowers, which she gathers while noting the name of the street where they were found, as well as the date. Back in the studio, these flowers are transformed into participants in still-life scenes that Burg keeps painting until they wilt – the moment that marks the completion of the painting. The name of the street where they were picked subsequently becomes the painting’s title. The result is a sort of geographical diary in which urban nature, and different cities inhabited during different periods, are brought into the space of the studio and the paintings by means of the flowers.
Another personal form of documentation is given expression in the series of self-portraits that the artist paints once a year, on her birthday. The exhibition features two nearly identical portraits painted on the occasion of Burg’s most recent birthday. Her expressionless face is turned to the left in a three-quarter profile, taking up almost the entire surface of the painting. In the lower right-hand corner, one can glimpse something of her red outfit – while the yellow garland she wears around her head stands out against the grey ground. This garland, which has lent the painting the title “Sourgrass,” was also gathered in the street, like the other flowers included in the exhibition. One can also view it as an allusion to Burg’s childhood years in the surroundings of Jerusalem, as well as to the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head. These connections between art-historical styles, motifs and traditions and between details from the artist’s personal biography draw affinities among different periods and places in her paintings. A further affinity with Renaissance painting and the history of art may be detected in the tiny self-portrait revealed in a fragment of a broken mirror. This painting alludes, among other things, to the works of the 17th-century painter Diego Velázquez, as well as to those of the 20th-century painter Avigdor Arikha. Burg is well aware of these affinities, while creating an independent language that also explores the materiality of the subject and the painterly process itself.
The materiality of the cardboard, as both a support and a painted object, is visibly present in Burg’s body of works. The paintings of boxes included in the exhibition reveal areas of abstraction, which have been informed by her exposure to American art and especially to abstract expressionism. As for the sculptural texture, Burg creates it from dry paint remaining on her palette, which she mixes with fresh paint. This method forges a connection between these earlier paintings and those we are attending to, which contain a range of layers from the “past.” The latest paintings reveal a new practice, which is related to Burg’s explorations of materiality: an intentional unraveling of the canvas, which leaves certain bits of it exposed.
Exhibition Curator: Shira Friedman
CURATORS: ROTEM ROZENTAL
NOVEMBER 18, 2018 – JANUARY 24, 2019
Inspired by Renaissance era myths and Jewish mysticism, Moments of Waking Up is the meeting point between two texts that serve as a powerful metaphors for the creative process. The first, an excerpt from the 12th century Kabbalistic text, Sefer ha-Bahir, speaks of a King who when building his palace on a rocky cliff discovers a fresh spring in the bedrock. He uses this living water to craft nature and plant a beautiful garden in which he and others can continue to delight. The second, the Dream of Poliphilus, is a 15th Century Venetian tale in which the titular character, in pursuit of his love, finds himself lost in an uncertain, fantastical dreamscape.
The exhibition culminates Burg and Schneider’s shared exploration of these texts, narratives in which space remains in flux, ungraspable and undetermined, and where questions regarding personal and communal traditions and rituals might surface. The flows of transformation and transition then take physical form in the shared space of the exhibition. Both Burg and Schneider perceive themselves primarily as painters, and yet their collaborative dialog emerges from a desire to explore three-dimensional space and the changing capacities of the materials that have come to define their work. Avital Burg’s layered canvases, thick and dripping with paint, create lush environments that exist almost in relief. On the verge of sculpture, they attempt to reach out into the gallery space, to engage directly with Schneider’s work.
Whereas Burg seeks and excavates the topography of remnants and residues of her canvases and palettes, Schneider explores readymades that are reminiscent of gestures of paintings. Fringe, human hair, and synthetic peacock feathers coalesce with miniature drawings, becoming the source materials for imagined architectural formations. Her site-specific wall pieces and installations expand from their point of origin to flow across the gallery, forming a sculptural space in which logic is subjected to the forces of idealized fantasies.
The Opening Reception for Moments of Waking Up, will take place on November 18, 5pm, and will feature a talk with the artists and a live musical performance, organized in collaboration with the Institute for Jewish Creativity.
Greenpoint Open Studios is a grassroots organization that aims to provide a free and open platform for local arts that builds, sustains, and supports the thriving creative community in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
For one weekend, hundreds of artists and designers open up their studios to the public to showcase work in a wide range of mediums. From paintings, sculptures, film, photography, weaving/textiles, ceramics, and more, there are seasoned artists to be visited and emerging artists to be discovered in the northernmost tip of Brooklyn.
March 17 – April 16, 2017
Opening Reception: Friday, March 17, 7-9 PM
Slag Gallery is pleased to present Low Relief, Avital Burg’s new solo exhibition.
Avital Burg is best known for her dreamy still-lifes and self-portraits. In these new paintings one can find a postcard of a Piero painting taped to a peeling brick wall, a broken gilded frame, a used paper coffee cup and a clay diorama of a Pompeii fresco. This seemingly random group of images in fact carries a sense of immediate and personal symbolism. They also hint at specific art history references and allusions to Burg’s past. In Low Relief, Burg meditates on the current moment through the passage of time, particularly on what it means to spend time making and looking at painting in today’s world.
The surface quality achieved by Burg’s inventive impasto technique becomes her way of transcending the nostalgia imbued in these paintings. It is also her vessel for moving forward and looking ahead. With each piece, Burg deliberately creates multiple layers of paint mixing dry oil paint with leftovers from other works into fresh paint, sometimes painting over older works themselves. In this process she reflects on how the present can encapsulate different times, while also striving to offer an emotional pause to the viewers. Utilizing color in a straightforward way to create cropped compositions, Burg crafts a hybrid history of different times and places, not unlike her own migratory path.
56 Bogart St.
Brooklyn, NY 11206