Yossi Waxman

Writer, Artist, Designer 

The Animal

Red House Gallery

Curator: Tamir Greenberg

A Word from the Curator

 

Waxman's paintings stand out among Israeli paintings, which tend to be rather delicate. The sheer power of pain and sadness that bursts out of his paintings is almost paralyzing. They cannot be discussed in terms such as "pretty." These are hard, disturbing paintings that remain on the viewers' minds long after they leave the exhibition. Waxman's unfiltered emotions spill out raging onto the canvass. Viewers get a glimpse of the artist's soul, and it is not easy to face the power of what is being revealed.

 

A dark forest. Three wolves, or perhaps hyenas, fill the front of the painting. Their eyes burn red and their bodies are expressively painted with a fiery multitude of colors - black, white, blue, yellow, and red - primary hues that seem to have emerged from some dark nightmare. Behind them, the horizon is ablaze in orange and yellow. Is it twilight time or some distant fire? Gazing at the viewers, the wolves' sad eyes are not threatening, but express terrible distress.

 

A twisted thorn at the front is drawn in liquid white. But is it a thorn? Again, at first glance, it appears threatening, but look again and threat is replaced by agony. Perhaps threats are always made by agonizing individuals? The thorns do not aim forward, but withdraw and retract into the depth of the painting like a predator that bows its head in shame.

 

And now, a quick switch; or so it seems. Masterpieces of the Western civilization: Caravaggio's Bacchus, Monet's Luncheon on the Grass, Giotto's Madonna and Child, Ingres' Mademoiselle Caroling Rivieré. The experienced eye recognizes these most familiar compositions, body postures, and multitude of colors, but something has gone terribly wrong here.

 

Plump babyish Bacchus is smeared upon the canvass, his face looks erased, and his originally distant and vein gaze is replaced here by a shameful and hurting look. The Madonna and Child, a mother with a baby in her arms, are painted against black background. The child's body seems to merge with the grim background, its face is very mature, and its hand covers its mother's face. The mother does not gently gaze upon her child, but looks away, far from the child, and the halo from Giotto's original painting turns into yellow and black sludge.

 

In Luncheon on the Grass, it is the same naked lady looking at the observer, yet it is not a middle-class man who reclines next to her, but a wolf in a suit, while the other man, who is closer to the nude woman, is replaced by a sheep that bows its head in resignation, waiting for the inevitable end. Monet's relaxed setting is converted here into a compressed scene, packed with violence and sexuality. The romantic forest is replaced by bare trees. The calm characters become liquid and distorted, and a sense of doom lingers in the air.

 

Waxman's paintings are attached to one another, creating super- paintings, extensive triptychs where each part inspires the others, assigning them with additional meaning. The wild forest and the Madonna with Child are one and the same. So are Bacchus and the wolf. They are merely symbols, deep and ancient archetypes that portray Man's tormented soul.

 

Waxman admires Western art. Waxman despises Western art. Waxman begs to be allowed into Western art. Waxman spits Western art in the eye. Waxman bows his head before the grandeur of Western art. Waxman holds his head high in the face of Western art. Waxman is cursing. Waxman is longing. Waxman is praying. Waxman stifles a scream. He paints like an outcast who stands on the sidelines, knowing he will never have a part in Western Art, but, unknowingly, he carves himself a part and a role in it.

 

Tamir Greenberg is a poet, playwright, an architect, and a curator. His play Hebron was staged in Israel, Britain, and Germany. 

 

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Translation: Baruch Gefen