H x W x D _ 12.5.22-18.6.22 The Loby Art Space curator: Orit Mor
Tali Benbassat: H x W x D
The Lobby Art Space, Tel Aviv
A town: stone, concrete, asphalt. Strangers, monuments, institutions. Megapolises. Urban sprawl. Traffic arteries. Crowds. Ant-hills? What is the heart of a town? The soul of a town? Why is a town said to be beautiful, or said to be ugly? What's beautiful and what's ugly in a town? How do you get to know a town? How do you get to know your town?
-- Georges Perec, Species of Spaces, 1974 [trans. John Sturrock]
Tali Benbassat's collages, floating on the walls of the space, like her three-dimensional installations made of paper and pieces of furniture, correspond with the modernist utopia. They are tantamount to architectural proposals or disrupted programs, urban growths of sorts, whose monumentality remains a mere shell. The plastic fragments comprising the works resonate with 20th century aesthetics and with ideas that were the cornerstones of art, design, and architecture in that century, addressing, inter alia, questions of reproduction and photography in the field of art. Dada, Suprematism, Pop art, the Israeli Want of Matter (the Midrasha school), details of local architecture, such as relief walls in dining rooms—Benbassat conducts a lively dialogue with all of these, giving rise to an encounter between different visual languages, which undergo processes of deconstruction, concealment, and subtraction in her works, before they are reconstructed.
Benbassat's practice is reminiscent of the actions described by Georges Perec in Species of Spaces (Espèces d'espaces). Like Perec, she also begins by looking at details on the surface, starting out with ostensibly unrelated abstract forms that are part of a tangled bulb-like texture devoid of clear boundaries. Benbassat extracts an element from one of her own past monochromatic space photographs, or from mid-20th century art, architecture, and design books. She examines this element closely, and continues to process it: enlarging, replicating, and cutting into geometric shapes, which she combines while drawing away, to the point of a bird's-eye view on the environment she has created.
In her past etchings, Benbassat orchestrated modular compositions made of geometric shapes, originating in industrial scrap. In the current works she returns to the printed photograph, this time using screenprinting, removing the sections that interest her from it, and decontextualizing them. The density of the paint absorbed into the paper and the materiality of the etchings are now replaced by paper, which is indifferent to what is printed on it. The screenprint's enlargement leaves an image of a surface—whether a section of a brutalist building façade, or a geometric shape printed using dots. The processing, cutting, and repositioning lend this new practice the quality of a unique manual craft, juxtaposed with the mechanical practice of replication and printing.
Benbassat presented her first collage works in 2021, in the exhibition "Motion is yet to Come" at Almacén Gallery, Jaffa (curator: Tali Ben Nun). Motion, indeed, was not long in coming, as the title prophesied. In Benbassat's oeuvre, motion plays a central role: while working, she constantly shifts between drawing near and away, zooming in and out. The modularity, which introduces countless possibilities, is an essential part of her work, alongside the acts of deconstruction and reconstruction, the illusive transitions between different dimensions and media, between space photography and abstract texture, the exterior-interior inversions, and the art world quotations. Benbassat leaves the traces of her movement on the flattened shell, which is akin to an inanimate kingdom—a world in which there are no relations between height, width, and depth.
Orit Mor, Curator of the Exhibition