Ben Baruch Blich
Being exposed to Arik Miranda's sensitive-one-line scribbles is a unique visual experience: on the one hand they materialize themselves by the very touch of paint and pencil, yet on the other hand they seem to evaporate in the thin air as if their existence is unstable, shaky, hidden and implied. These entity-non-entity representations bring to the open questions as to the nature of art, creativity and what is considered as visual culture. It seems to me correct to say that Miranda's art is an open-texture rendering without a definite subject or an articulate statement, and as such it puts our conventional understanding of what is art under a magnifying glass. And indeed, his works compel us to examine them with an innocent eye stripped off any of the known genres we are familiar with in the arts. Miranda is not an impressionist, nor he an expressionist or a surrealist; his works do not correspond with postmodern realism and he defies any connection to popular art. And yet, Miranda takes us by surprise with his tender and sensitive point of view on what art should dedicate itelf to. If I read him correctly, Miranda gently protests by his insistence on pure undefined renderings that art has abandoned its obligation for exhibiting the elements of the arts, i.e.: lines, patches of color, strings of curves, which were suggested by Paul Klee in his Pedagogical Sketches, as the pillars of visual presentation.
By committing himself to these non-gravity entities: black and white canvases smeared with minimal hinted lines either as a positive rendering or as a negative one, Miranda constitutes a new and fresh approach to what is considered as the traditional well established goals artists for centuries strived to depict, i.e.: the very essence of the line, the dot, the curve – cornerstones of reflections by art and in art.
Having a deep and unbiased look at the works exhibited one will no doubt come to the conclusion that their merit lies in the twilight zone between traditional art with an extensive touch of far east calligraphy, and a profound reflective understanding of its role in western civilization. The black canvases allude no doubt to Malevich's black void paintings, and the golden-bronze dotty scribbles vigorously put them in context. The same goes with the empty white canvases delicately scribbled with short undefined lines. Both manifest a profound apprehension of what painting is vis-à-vis traditional ancient calligraphy as opposed to western black void canvases done by Malevich.
It is therefore in place to say that Miranda serves as a bridge between the many sources of artistic skills originated in Eastern Cultures and what we are familiar with as residents in Western Culture. As such his works put us in a reflective mood bringing up undefined memories, imaginary daydreams, scattered maps of forgotten terrains, ideas we have not put into words. Miranda's studies make us think, observe and reflect at hidden primeval non-articulate thoughts.
To end this short note, let me say that the whispering voice of Miranda is a merit of its own we rarely witness in postmodern art, which unravels what art is all about.
Ben Baruch Blich
History and Theory
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design
The "lucky" gaze out at us from Arik Miranda's works: young, beautiful and carefree. The current exhibition deals with glamour, beauty and romanticism, but paradoxically also marks moments of rupture. Out of delicacy and precision, Miranda makes space for the cracks that are cleft beyond everything that glitters.
This exhibition is made up of a new body of works by Miranda, including video and works on paper, on which he has carried out his intentions. Miranda's preoccupation with beauty and high aesthetics reaches a peak in the course of delicate acts of drawing and scission, outpourings of color on top of images from art and photography books and from fashion magazines and the culture of haute couture.
Miranda's choice of images raises questions about the nature of beauty. He skillfully shifts out the perfect image, that which vacillates between exemplary images from
art history and enigmatic fashion photos.
Fashion and design photography has been greatly influenced by art. One example are Alex Katz's drawings, which served as an inspiration for fashion photographers, another is the lighting in Edward Hoppers paintings.
Hoppers' women hold an expression of longing and yearning. They seem to have been captured at the threshold, just before losing the ability to do so. Katz transfers this empty harsh gaze to large scale paintings. The signature style of his works, the isolation of the human form from its surroundings, echoes in fashion photography.
Miranda takes these fashion photographs and sensitizes moments of alienating beauty, and so allows the viewer to escape from the harsh isolation and to experience pleasure and pain in front of the painting.
The figures in Miranda's works usually stand alone, beautiful and tender. By adding color and transparency, he succeeds in creating moments of "togetherness." At such moments he will unite, for example, two figures that appear doomed to a lonely existence upon the page. This connection may be a fragile, minor moment, but it is there nonetheless. Miranda's works yearn to attain perfection and connect to the Other.
The choice of song that accompanies the exhibition stems from one of Miranda's prominent sources of inspiration—pop music—which to him captures the essence of love, heartbreak and longing. Pop may be "cheap," but it is powerful and enables us, even at difficult moments, to feel that there is something in the world that unites us all. In the consoling rhetoric of pop music we are all of us alone, and so in fact no-one is really alone.
As in a video clip, Miranda stages a surrounding that contains references to perfect beauty, eternal youth, and sexuality not yet aware of its strength. Within this space, he constitutes the moment at which a disturbance is distinguished—the intensity of whose presence is hard to determine. The dabbing of paint and play with the paper's transparency unfold, as it were, a secondary and doleful plot for the existing image. This is a naïve and clean eroticism, with a smell of cinnamon tea and apples. A Rembrandtesque candlelight flickers between two dimensions in Miranda's works and illuminates a new world, like a bittersweet caress.
Miranda's romanticism isn't cynical. It's the real thing. It colors and guides his life and labors.
Miranda’s photographic act is an act of love. It’s almost hypnotizing. Eros is there, but not at the center. The time spent courting and photographing the model, and then imprinted on paper forever, is love. The rest, trifles.
Yoav Shmueli on Arik Miranda’s exhibition at Gallery 4, Florentine, Tel Aviv
Arik Miranda’s art draws you in, intrigues and captures. The thoughts, mainly pleasurable, it induces offer an intoxicating, even bothering, cocktail that takes time to digest. First, it’s an installation, a place with its items: a regal white curtain, manicured pot plants. Then, it’s the gentle fluttering of drawing on the wall, and an arrow straight to the heart – black and white photographs and nudity. Here and now, and timelessness; a gaze at infinity veiled in thin surrealism. The special experience, the multilayered whole, and eventually, the spellbinding nudity. The bride has undressed, but the artist too has given his soul.
When I try to imagine Miranda’s ideal viewer of this enigmatic exhibition mounted in the entrance floor of the guesthouse in Florentine, I think of one Brian Perry. Apart from the immortal video clip to the song Slave to Love, featuring tall women whose heads touch the sky, it’s the entirety of the visual output of the man who was almost a plastic artist. From the early 1970s Perry made sure to have the most beautiful and interesting women – from Jerry Hall to Kate Moss – on Roxy Music’s and his solo record’s covers; sticking his golden finger right in the eye of political correctness. I’m hanging onto Perry because his women, like that of Miranda, project something distant, mysterious, approachable/unapproachable. Erotica served cold.
Miranda’s appearances in Israeli art are as transient as that of a beautiful butterfly. He shows up, rests for a moment or two, leaves an image and disappears once again. Like the butterfly, it’s hard to hold on to him for long. Yet Between Two Islands, his most personal work to date is somewhat different. Miranda lands at dusk. Leaves some powder. The young man has matured. All the offerings are already here: the drawings from time immemorial, between geometric abstract and traditional Japanese painting; the set that isn’t a set at all, but simply a combination of some real and clear objects – these are the minimalist pot plants Miranda cultivates on his balcony, and the white screen\curtain is a fine product made in the family workshop (in a previous exhibition he brought his bed replete with white bedding); and the photographs: his apartment and one wonderful woman. What more can a person ask for?
Indeed everything fits together wonderfully, and you feel at home at Miranda’s without ever having visited. The main draw, however, are the photographs, in which the house appears in decadent Zenlike minimalism that manages to evoke both a luxurious, generic hotel room and a pleasant space with personal history and style. The face of the room, the face of the man: the curtains are elegant and crisp, as is the bedding, obviously. Another space has a pretty mirror and other pot plants, different from those in the gallery. These, of course, are only background for the gentle and intimate dance of a woman in full bloom. She and Miranda know that when the bride has undressed something entirely different occurs.
Miranda’s photographic act is an act of love. It’s almost hypnotizing. Eros is there, but not at the center. Tamar, the beautiful model, free, sexy, sexual. Eros is natural, gentle, exciting, in his place. The doubling of her figure, created with a piece of chandelier glass, is part of photography’s natural sequence, looking squarely at Man Ray. The time spent courting and photographing the model, and then imprinted on paper forever, is love. The rest, trifles.
Miranda’s movement is in the space between the necessity of façade and feeling, between fire and ice. Were it possible, Miranda would want each of his tears to harden and fossilize, become ice or glass. The female nudity opens the heart, frees inhibitions and assumes another place, the enchanting place of beauty and love. All the said above does not at all contradict the understanding that the portrait of Tamar is also a self-portrait of the artist. It always merges.
It’s interesting to about Miranda’s artistic sources: painting, photography, installation. Something of the immortal space and time of Edward Hopper, Man Ray, as mentioned, and even the timeless youth of Bruce Webber. His curtain\screen is not from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks or from Félix González-Torres, but they linger in the awareness. Miranda touches each of them gently and takes off to his own direction.
Arik Miranda / Between Two Islands
Curator: Orit Mor
Gallery 4, Florentine 6, Tel Aviv
Arik Miranda was born in Israel 1972 and is one of the most aspiring artists and curators of his native country, in the last years also making a name for himself internationally. His studies at the Hamidrasha School of Arts and the Avni Institute of Arts in Tel Aviv, as well as numerous artist-in-residence programs paved the way for his current art practice, one that cannot be reduced to one medium or technique. Spanning genres, Miranda invariably constructs the field of his calling as broadly as possible. His characteristic approach and uncompromising questioning is especially apparent in his photography, drawing and painting, to all of which analytical irony is inherent.
From this standpoint, several exhibitions have already enabled his sensitive observation of subjects such as identity, his own growing up, his homeland and its (art) history, and pivotal moments such as love, fear, beauty, nature, undogmatic spirituality and destruction.
In his work, Miranda emphasizes that only a conceivably small, reduced vocabulary is necessary to, in sublime and differentiated manner, visualize the world and our relationship to it. The sparingly applied line, the almost translucent color scheme of his paintings, the subversive tranquility in his photography, all draw attention to a bigger whole, without congesting the viewer’s power of imagination with superfluities. Miranda’s work thus becomes evidence of an encounter with the real, emotional and mental structure of the world, introspection and outward view, without instructive or sweeping gestures.
Arik Miranda shapes expressive simplicity like no other, and by minimalistic expression achieves the viewers’ maximum involvement. It is the genuinely humourous moments (including the use of lyrics of contemporary pop music as titles for series) which captivate, while never calling into question or dissolving the significance of his work. Bedsides taking us on a journey into his vibrant world, the undeniable honesty in Miranda’s images invites us to undertake one into our own imagination.
Eyal de Leeuw and Sahar Shalev - HA-GARÇONNIÈRE
Occasionally the Garçonnière stray happily from the straight and narrow and post something special in their characteristic mannerly spirit. Namely, a piece they were asked to write on the exhibition of their dear friend, the very talented artist Arik Miranda (and not for the first time, they now recall).
Miranda’s exhibition Summer opens tomorrow at Gallery 39 in Tel Aviv, and everyone is of course invited to come along.
A young Narcissus, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a stained khaki jacket over a white shirt, gazes into the river at his feet seeking his reflection, which is invisible both to him and to us. The color palette is washed – from the deep green of the water plants to the sky, which Miranda stained in mesmerizing red liquid. Ophelia’s child seems to have emerged from the outskirts of London and is spellbound by the threat presented by nature (or by his invisible reflection), like a sculpture hovering over the water.
Miranda distorts the clean and polished images that fill the world of magazines from which his work departs: if the seasons of the year are nature’s timepiece, he interferes with the progression of time. In praise of the slow, Miranda describes the youth’s stoic calmness before undoing it and turning the world into something threatening, disturbing and alluring. The red that appears on the summertime image (scorched, dry nature) like a brushstroke on the page is the youth’s (or the artist’s) desire for his reflection, for blood that will let in color and awaken the world from its destruction.
Like in the large triptych by Gilbert and George The Paintings, with Us in the Nature (1971), the work is a memory of something else. Gilbert and George consider the paintings that make up the triptych recollections of summer spent in the British countryside (they called themselves “sculptures” and claimed that the real sculpture is the summer they passed in that landscape). Miranda uses his readymade image – a magazine double-spread – as a memory of something else: a print that yearns for matter and perhaps also for some blood. Like a painting that longs for its originating photograph, which in turn longs for life itself.
Nature for Miranda is a wonderland for the emotions. Music is heard on the descend to the gallery’s ground floor. It is joined by an image of the scathing memory of bustling nature and the dull pain of disappointment otherwise known as young love; romantic and terrifying, evoking yearnings and memories, but also pain. As with Gilbert and George, Miranda adds an elusive text that heightens the tension forming between the boy and nature, between the gaze at the water seeking the reflection and the desire to escape the world.
Yet unlike the work by Gilbert and George, Miranda’s is small and confined to the size of the magazine double-spread, now framed and mummified, as if the artist is declaring his overcoming of nature while remaining in tears.
This is not the first of Miranda’s works that uses the art of the magazine to deal with the loved and endangered medium of print, like an elegant Oedipal act. This is a nostalgic yearning to the world of magazines that captured contemporary culture – from Andy Warhol’s Interview through British 90s magazines Dazed and iD, to the prestigious magazines of today. In this case, Miranda’s work is a late reflection, a hesitant urge to defile the sacristy of print, to break the printed spiritual father that was so influential on the generation it effected. Yet it is also homage to matter, to the smell of print and to the realness of magazines that was lost in the digital age and is now summoned back through its staining; through the artistic act that gets its blood flowing. It is time to repay magazines: to show compassion to print, to embrace it with warmth, to praise its glory.
It is from the same cultural habitat that Miranda draws the effective soundtrack with which he envelopes his works. Here the track is Stranger in Paradise by St. Etienne, in which a person turns to nature: “But open your angel’s arms, to this stranger in paradise, and tell him that he need be a stranger no more.”
And here the youth hovers innocently over the rapid, turning each heartbreak into a crying game, each little wave into a foamy bubble on the water while we remain forever strangers in paradise; whether in the fine suits of Gilbert and George, or in jeans and sneakers.
Arik Miranda’s solo exhibition is the third in Gallery 4’s Drawing Season.
Pale photographs of nude young women hand on the gallery walls. Fine gold lines drawn directly on the walls reach beyond the borders of the photographic paper. A white curtain from the family curtain shop on King George street in Tel Aviv, a recurring motif in Miranda’s work, appears both in the background of several of the works and as a physical object that hangs from the ceiling in the center of the space and conceals parts of it.
The exhibition title, Between Two Islands, seems to derive from romantic films. It contributes to the installation’s cinematic feel in its evocation of a studio in which the main protagonist – the photographer – works. While inviting and intimate, the space is only one in which the artist is alone with his subject, and where the photographs are worked on and contemplated.
In recent years Miranda has worked extensively with photography, capturing images of women he encounters in life and online. This work process involves a certain ritual of seduction and courting that serves to conserve his longing gaze at these Lolitaesque muses. Indeed the site of the photographic act doesn’t look like an artist studio but more like a domestic environment in which the subjects are wedged into a corner of sorts, a narrow area blocked by curtains or a mirror, and yet strong daylight enters.
The photographs are created through prisms of light, like the kind of polished glass used in light fixtures, creating an effect of multiplication and blur. The photographs resonate surreal photography of nude women by artists such as Man Ray or André Kertész. They might be imagining states in which the gaze blurs or sight crushes from the power of that seen, suggesting a fetishistic obsession with the image that continues when the works become installation objects.
Like in Miranda’s 2016 solo exhibition, Love the Feeling of Being Slightly Lost, at Lobby – Place for Art, the artist activates the beauty trap on his viewers and invites them to participate fully in the experience. The artificial environment, which Miranda moved from the studio or the house to the gallery, restores the longing and striving for delectation brought by “breathtaking beauty.” This becomes the center around which viewers are given optimal conditions to identify with the artist’s gaze, leaving ethical questions behind the curtain. As Laura Mulvey argued, “…The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness,” Miranda might be making a brave move in a period in which gender power relations are being reexamined.
A well known Buddhist Koan poses the question what is the sound of one hand clap. What is the sound of nothing, of void, which is a plenitude to eternity that cannot be uttered, cannot be contained, the "being" immersed in all. The Japanese Zen Buddhist traditions developed the art of the subtle; exacerbate statement, the one question that reshuffles the habitual thought created by dusty cognition causing enlightenment. The esthetic that derived of this form of thinking is also discerned, polished, nucleus, pitted, silent and suggestive. Miranda's painting-drawings send out long soft tendrils towards this tremendous tradition, towards that esthetic: The yellow sphere of the sun peeping out from between a tangle of yellow leaves; Horizontal lines and two red dots; Droplets of color alongside a delicate sliver of moon; A tree marked by three lines. The painting is abstracted down to its skeletal components: line, dot, a circle. And thus, the painting echoes the chain of: creation-nature-universe.
Miranda's works are driven by the passion to attain the basic components, to reach the unity that lies at the basis of all diversity, to what lays hidden and camouflaged in the deep layers, underneath the biting reality, the humdrum and noise of voice and color. Miranda seems to be saying: I do not paint what I see but what exists, or in fact "does not exist". The transcendental greatness immersed like a veil over the face of all things, the invisible essence, the "power" that is, that exists, the ontology, the extant.
The works deem to generate a cognitive change in the observer, but by diffused, soft transition, and not by any Koanian query that contains symbolic violence, not by meditation exercises that hurt the joints and are permeated with significance; through the beating heart, the core pulsating in face of the change, the aperture, the calmness and the understanding.
Yoel Hoffman's book The Heart is Katmandu is about Yehoachim. It would seem that Yehoachim could be Miranda's hero too: while Hoffman infers strips of life through intimate verbal intrusion, Miranda does so with his art. "The sound of patting on flesh is the sound of the one/ hand because there is no longer any division between body and body/ ay this love to ourselves like/ suddenly turning on the light and seeing", writes Hoffman in The Heart is Katmandu [Hebrew].
"Turn on the light and see" is what Miranda's works are saying, formulating a plea for different observation, observation that is sensitive to the beauty of that which is both one-time and eternal. "Ho the sun [reflects Yehoachim] le soleil, the sun, healer of the skin!", writes Hoffman, creating an association between "light" and "skin" [the Hebrew word or means both "light" and "skin", but written in a different spelling]. Miranda's suns are "the sun", the sun that is an eye, the sun that is a spring, the sun that is camisoles of light and skin inside which all things are wrapped and swaddled.
Arik Miranda's drawings exist, yet at the same time they seem almost non-existent. This fundamental contradiction is the basis for understanding Miranda's oeuvre. The presence of a line on a sheet of paper is minor, minimalist, lest been said, covert. However, each line is precisely positioned, and any alteration, be it the slightest, will distort and change the whole ensemble. There is no place for error, and thus, each and every line generates an immense power.
The empty paper expanse is the space with which Miranda conducts his dialog. Miranda intrudes it with lines and forms, undermining the wonderful sublime white or black emptiness. The undermining of the foundations of the void even more clearly illustrates its presence. The solitary lines or colors impair the wholeness of the vacuum. They empower it and the eternity it represents.
The paintings of Tel Aviv boulevards (Rothschild Boulevard) with straight lines that cut through each other while climbing the painted expanse are an illustration of an abstract combination that becomes a symbolic expanse.
The silver felt pens with which many of the works are drawn, provide an optimal precision control of execution. Many of the works are like architectural drawings from the pre-computer era. The icy, precise lines, which at the same time convey intimate warmth, are a source of comfort in a technological world devoid of feeling.
The simple, untouched Polaroid photographs that capture the image without any computerized manipulations also provide a sort of comfort. The direct images, without makeup or distortion, on a background of enclosing vegetation, or deep dark expanses – provide a sense of warmth in the urban space, which is present-absent in the background of the entire series.
Religious painting, secular painting
At first glance it is difficult to find any real connection between the Jewish or religious themes and the apparently secular paintings by Miranda. His abstraction is reminiscent of Japanese art and that of abstract post World War II American art. The influence of Barnett Newman's simple but sturdy lines spread over giant canvasses does, however, create an interesting connection between the secular minimalism and the Jewish abstract-symbolic spiritualism. This brings up the association to the philosophy and Jewish inspiration that investigates the essence of abstraction and symbolism in the works of Mordechai Ardon, the basalt-writings of Moshe Castel, and most certainly to the divine and apocalyptic spiritualism of Moshe Kupferman, Israel's greatest abstract artist.
The investigation of Jewish abstract spiritualism by Miranda may be a significant milestone in the investigation of Israeli secular thought, which aspire to be the new enlightened Judaism that has been developing in Israel throughout the turn of the twenty-first century.
The most central theme in AM's work occurs in his identification to the movements of suspension, defined by lack, of the voiceless objects of the real.
Within the realm of arik miranda's spirit, the “presence” of the object imposes itself, upon the subject, as a phenomenon.
Through his fascinating ways of repeating scenery and imagery in hallucinatory contexts, AM draws an hypnotic real which loses all meaning and materiality.
The real, as perceived by AM, is positive and negative in the sense that it is both the figure of its “truth” and also the revelation of its hidden substance.
The movement from the positive to the negative understanding of the object is experimented in terms of absence and silence, beyond its boundaries and the situation it belongs.
The perception of the object and the subject is destabilized through the experience and practice of AM's floating gaze.
AM creates open receptacles for the patterned narratives which modulate new scenarios in our conscious and unconscious.
AM expresses imperceptible meanings onto the said and the unsaid in a quasi silent and vacant space, far from the noise of our thought processes, and engages a gradual move to the radicality of showing objects in particular contexts and extinguishing their materiality.
AM’s idea of the gaze as object of desire attempts to elucidate in historical fragments the symptoms of our memory.
More specifically, the figure of the body/object, when exposed by AM, marks its place in an existential dimension where life and words seem to constantly accompany us into a pivotal physicality .
AM’s notions of gaze and silence seems to interrogate the complex relation that exists between the desire and the other.
The gaze, the desire and the silence structures the transcendental relation from the outside to the inside.
AM materializes his existential sight on the lack and the absence.
And it happens, beyond the limits of the materiality, the origins, in the inner silence of himself.
BOY AND GIRL
In Arik Miranda's private lexicon the following definition appears under the entry "beauty": a boy and a girl embrace and kiss beneath Menashe Kadishman's three circles sculpture.
What sort of bullshit is Miranda dishing out to us? A photograph of a loving couple from Haifa, Saturday-morning-tourists? A photograph of an art monument? Or is it possible, god forbid, that Miranda wants us to think of simplistic representation of the course of history configured as the shattering of Modernism over the head of two lovers?
Pure formalism stretches obliquelly on top of a romantic scene – a convergence point of extremes. Miranda tries to be authentic and direct: to glorify the photograph and extol true love. The result is a complete sham, which is a total truth; artificiality equals nature; for the most part his own nature. Undoubtedly the sculpture and the couple are holding on to each other, but the three are held firmly by Miranda himself, aware as he is of their implosive potential.
ROOTING FOR LOVE
Miranda roots for love. He is repelled by and consciously avoids analytic irony and the typical cold fastidiousness of art practices labeled as elitist and sophisticated. As such, it is only natural that we define Miranda as a pop artist. And indeed, Miranda is a plastic-pop-artist, although more in the sense of "pop music" than of "pop art" per se. Let me explain:
- Pop music usually propounds a light-hearted world view: something sweet, nostalgic, lacking depth and simple in the manner of 'I love you, you love me.'
- In pop culture the packaging is everything. Unequivocally cover essence are equivalents, and consequently one might say: (1) Judge a book by its cover; (2) Listen carefully to the cover and you'll find what lies within it.
- A pop song is a highly charged explosive; a crammed art capsule, wily and approachable; a manipulative 'bomblet,' deliberately and directly aiming at our two fundamental art-receptors: the heart and the intellect.
- A pop song is an optimal means for fulfilling time gaps, embarrassing moments, passages and liberated indolence. A pop song is everywhere: at home, in schoolyards, in industrial halls, in truck cabins and in academic hallways.
- A pop song is the only vehicle by which one may set out on a voyage through time, in a transparent sweet-tasting sound tube. Who hasn't experienced, while listening to a pop song, the effect of an amazingly precise taking off toward a specific point in time and space?
- Listening to a pop song is an experience which involves all senses. An experience that causes us all, simple-minded and sophisticated alike, to momentarily lose our sense of orientation.
- A successful pop song sounds familiar upon listening to it for the first time, it is easy to hum and devoid of any avant-gardist pretensions. In many ways, one can say, that its strength lies precisely in its unoriginality.
Miranda of course is indebted to pop music. The raw material, the first visual text to which he was exposed were CD casings, and soon after he found himself enchanted and mesmerized by the silvery, magic, hologramic glare of the disk itself. His work is like a sandwiched spread: its upper layer, its ceiling, is a decorative illustration of the wrapping. While its lower layer, its floor, is the jewel-like dandified and industrialized beauty of the disk. Pop minimalism. A soft modernism.
Miranda is an obsessive slave of packaging, of the wrapping culture, of the surface. Not in its hard and strict modernistic aspect, but rather in its delicate beauty that is soft and romantic: the first touch of a boy and girl. Such a sense of repletion, such a saccharine-like mixture, should send a shudder down the spine of any civilized person, who perceives him/herself as fastidious, critical, sophisticated.
Miranda is a romantic, a two-dimensional pop songs producer. What underlies such a romantic world view?
Certainly not Life. But rather substitute lifes, which we are supposed to conceive as Life itself, the taste of life: dogmatic, radicalized representations that display life that was swollen up by synthetic hormones, unblemished, untainted life, lifeless life. A raspberry is sweet, but raspberry syrup is sweeter. The ultimate love is summarized, or rather satisfied, by the potency of the piercing and straight gaze of a male model into the eyes of his female counterpart. Who needs love when you have a poster of Love?
Sports aren't necessary – a sportive look is good enough. She loves him and he loves her, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. In the last catalogue of Castro-Man a male model plays Jackson Pollock better than Ed Harris, and most probably is more photogenic than Pollock himself. That's it! Clement Greenberg's support is no longer needed! Pollock-free Pollock, soap-free soap, love-free love, fuck-free fuck. But how does the whole damn thing stick together? How come it doesn't collapse? On what does it stand?
STRESS AND RELAXATION
Brian Eno's ambient music was inspired by his stay in a hospital, confined to his bed after a car accident. The origin of the music is the enforced sound, monotonic and ongoing, produced by the life support systems that kept him and other patients alive. On what did the recognition and the exposure lean? On intuition, or on acquired knowledge? In artistic professionalism knowledge and intuition is one and the same. A musician was lying there. And that musician's ear arranged the environmental noise as music or perceived it, to begin with, as a musical sequence.
Similarly, a plastic artist would surely differentiate a ceramic tile wall of an operating room from the one decorating a fashionable kitchen. What keeps Miranda's works alive and prevent them from collapsing is the artistic act – the artistic craft.
Miranda's encounter with plastic arts created the possibility of fresh encounters with pop music. No longer the innocent and loving encounter of an adolescent with the love of his youth, but rather that of an artist filled with the same love. On the one hand, a distance (of an researcher, of a professional). On the other hand, an intimacy (nostalgia, revealing sensuality, a link to an authentic, living and psychologically charged dimension). Distance and intimacy. Stress and relaxation. Art in a nutshell. The formula which bridges over the nonexistent gap between Van Gogh and Donald Judd.
Art needs a raw material, but there is no raw material destined solely for art. Materials are dead corpses until the moment they meet up with the artist, at which point they are charged with energy and gain some sort of life. Miranda knew he had raw material at his disposal. But raw material is forever nothing but raw material: something neutral, devoid of intentions, and lifeless, like any material of which art is made.
And yet: if a pop song is nothing more than raw material, it's very hard to utilize it as an artistic springboard. Its components are simple and banal like those of a cosmetic cream, but this isn't the only issue at stake here, there is also the fact that from the very beginning a pop song carries with it a certain inferiority, a certain inborn deformity, a certain superfluous burden of prejudices. Such a stance obliges Miranda – who chose the pop song as a main source of inspiration for his work – to proceed with extreme caution, for his room for manoeuvre is small from the very onset and in constant danger of slipping into the utterly banal. Consequently, the ability to produce a 'smart object' from such initial givens would be critically dependent on the correct usage that he makes of them.
This is the point of Miranda's passage from an emotional and somewhat banal boy to an artist concerned with both emotions and the banal. His first series of works, executed during and after his studies, revealed a new manner of speaking about abstraction, a geometric abstraction, and a soft and feminine minimalism. The surfaces shimmered with a perpetual moistness (the wet look) of silvery tones. Flirting dangerously with the banal, the imagery explicitly strove to create an erotic atmosphere, homo-erotic. The brushstrokes were choked and vanished completely under a thick layer of varnish sealing the surface. The movement of the viewer in front and by the works produced a sense of gazing at a hologram, resembling a frantic play with the movements of a shining disk you happen to hold in your hand.
To its credit, it should be said that such a body of work, in spite of its ability to join similar moves that tooke place in Israeli art of the last decade, and in spite of the convenient matrix it set up for discussion and the creation of new texts that surround it – there was still something enigmatic about it. On occasion, the falling in love and the treatment of beauty transcended the acceptable and left the body of work beyond the flexible perimeters of good taste.
AN INFINITE SUGARY CONTINUUM
In the latest series of drawings, presented in the current exhibition, legitimate points of reference are abandoned: those which enable you to slide gracefully toward the center of the artistic discourse. Gently as is his way, Miranda continues to abuse dogmatic Modernism and to turn it into a infinite sugary continuum.
His drawings look like negatives of African paintings that foreign office officials used to bring home at the heyday of diplomatic relations with the black continent in the early sixties – ethnicity for the masses. At times, they even look like ornaments forced between two mirrors in a local barber shop in order to upgrade, as it were, the shop's interior design; like the empty maquettes of mega department stores in a miniature shopping mall; or rather like 1:1 models of paper mats set on a table complete with silverware and a menu.
It is easy to elevate the drawings by evoking geometry and minimalism, but it is far better not to do so: to hitch one's wagon to a star lends too much credit to the star and, most importantly, robs the works of their power. It's quite surprising, but the power of the works derives from another encounter, between Miranda and three painters that one would hardly expect to find on a young artist's menu. It is also rather rare to include them within any list of dominant influences: two of the artists are found often outside the narrow canonical territory and the status of the third is still unclear – being, as he is, with one leg within and the other without the canon.
Ardon-Castel-Gross – hereinafter: ACG – three artists who inevitably cause a certain derision whenever their names are mentioned in connoisseur circles. The ultimate pop songwriters and singers of the undying discourse about art. Proven successes and safe investments, hits. Strong characters, who survived despite the rejection by the canon, each according to his own way. What the three have in common is their ability to create soft and popular cover-versions of music that was originally hard and radical.
How does it happen that someone who considers himself 'a progressive artist' finds himself drawing 'middle of the road drawings?' The danger lurks for all of us, but the result is one and the same: visual flattery, which is supported by simplistic texts and projects a seemingly lofty air. For the most part, this is a process whose results can not be foreseen, but which is slowly turns into an uncontrollable car that has lost its breaking power and careens down the slope. The most interesting case, of course, is Michael Gross who continues to fool us all and succeeds in living a full and effervescent life in both worlds.
The ACG trio is the ultimate example, but there are others, younger artists of the middle generation, and, of course, the genuinely young, daring and sharp, some of whom will turn, quickly enough, into updated versions of the same phenomenon.
A POST FACTUM WORLD OF DEPTH
The unbelievable has happened: a young artist declares his love for Ardon, Castel and Gross. He claims to be neither cynical nor ironic; they simply turn him on. To declare one's love for Lavie or Kupferman – is fine and even commended. But to tell the world that Castel is part of your own artistic text – that's so weird, it actually begins to sound interesting. Lots of sophisticated people go around humming Abba's tunes. Few of them included them in their impressive collection of records; a kind of secret, forbidden love. Love, that appears far better when it is retro; when it is elevated by texts and by complicated new ties that construct a post factum world of depth for it.
Such a relation contributes to Miranda's works, but the ACG artists benefit from it just as much. Miranda is frank and authentic but not naïve. A bee line runs between his love for pop music and his ability to easily relate to the way Ardon transforms Kadinsky and Miró into decorative Formica. He is utterly conscious of the effect of otherness produced by a public and loud declaration of his love for the three. Miranda, almost like every other young artist in Israel, studied in one of the two select art institutions ("The Midrasha"). He was told there, you must decide "what is good art?" and "what isn't?", "who is an artist?" and "who isn't?", and "who is a very important artist?" "and who is less so?"
So that's it, now Miranda shuffles the cards, slips them back into the pack and sets out on a voyage of introspection, all on his own.
Arik Miranda’s work does not articulate an exacting agenda as most art practices do at present. Instead, through his drawings and paintings, he aims for a particular wholeness which is informed by the collected experience of life including history, love, time, anxiety and beauty. It is significant to consider Miranda’s work in relation to the title of this exhibition which is taken from the 1923 Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. This poem recounts the infinite impermanence of the natural world in the following eight lines:
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Much like Frost, Miranda uses balance and a minimal vocabulary to express a universal vision of the world and our relationship to it. His paintings and drawings depict archetypal forms and moments—the halcyon of the night, the glow of a campfire or streetlight, pierced golden daggers, moons perched above clusters of leaves, and nature collapsing on the ground—existing between violence and lissomeness. These minimalist compositions trace the connection between Japanese aesthetics and Judaica through clarity and modesty by reducing the plane to its bare bones. The inclusion of additional pictorial information is not necessary here, as we realize that by removing the colors, shadows and figures one might associate with these scenes, the foundation is infused with even greater purpose than before.
Miranda does not paint or draw from photographic or filmic references—his memory is the primary source of imagery for his work. His experience of memory is manifold—where sights are linked to music and thoughts are linked to touch. Employing his own rules of perspective, Miranda’s work is a construction of his cerebral map.
Art is most honest when it starts from the place that the artist is coming from—crossing physical, emotional and mental terrain. Miranda was brought up in Israel, where God and history are always nearby and this is certainly reflected in his work. However, his art is spiritual without providing the kind of dogmatic religious approach often associated with art from this region. While Miranda clearly backs the ideals of Modernism, one has to question if he is truly a Modernist, as he looks both inwards and outwards and expounds the spiritual. As our world rapidly unravels, art is well-served by being both political and social. However, sometimes it is still imperative for art to also be beautiful, so that we can recover the sublime.
Federico Bianchi Contemporary Art is pleased to announce “Bright Days Are Here”, an exhibition of new paintings and drawings by Tel Aviv based artist Arik Miranda. Forgoing the politics of art in order to bring the focus back to art itself, Miranda's work depicts moments which we often take for granted—the halcyon of the night, the glow of a campfire or streetlight and nature falling on the ground. The minimalist compositions included in this exhibition trace the connection between Japanese aesthetics and Judaica through clarity and modesty.
Bright Days Are Here
There is a gap between Arik Miranda's titles and his art. This gap is crucial for grasping Miranda's endeavors. This gap is inherent to the beauty of the work and its wisdom. Miranda's titles suggest narrative, while the work itself bares the very minimal intervention - one that barely leaves its marks on the paper, and all together avoids "story telling" conventions. In other words, Miranda's work flirts, first and for most, with the notion of time. It playfully and carefully establishes time code's binaries, only to pull the rug under the very same establishment.
"Bright Days Are Here" is an optimistic celebration with a certain naiveté assumption attached to it; one that encapsulates a sense of prophecy - a blessed prophecy. But not quite like Joseph, there's no room for "seven bad years" in Miranda’s title. One might call it Utopia.
"Bright Days Are Here", not singular but rather plural; "days", many of them, not less -- are here. And as in utopia there's also an imbedded temporal and logical paradox, a conflict of time and place which prevents it from being: these upcoming "Days" (future tense) "are here" now (present tense). And so Miranda's prophecy seems to be elusive.
Joseph, "the special one", loved dearly by his father, was given a stripes gown - a gown which differentiate him from his brothers. These stripes were Joseph's trademark. Metaphorically speaking, Miranda deconstructs Joseph's gown. Each stripe becomes a line; each line is broken into smaller fragments. Then they are woven into new forms, into new images. The lines curve into moon's shape, or maybe the sun? They become trees -- blooming ones, but also ones that allude to gallows. Landscapes, with bare minimum articulation, surfaces -- they're there, but hardly seen. Miranda's pictorial language is made out of syllables which refuse to turn into full comprehensive sentences. Rather, they take their chances with a distilled experience that manages to tell so much with so few words.
The story of Arik Miranda's art is the story of Arik, the man with the felt-tipped pen. He is both the main protagonist of this story, and the only one absent from within its frame. Every exhibition of Miranda's work seems to constitute a point of temporary departure from this narrative, until the present show, in which the direct, linear drawings are the main catalyst for the works on display.
We see that Miranda's horizons have shifted from magazine pages, on which he has worked in recent years, to the artist's personal collection of photographs. These are works for the 'Instagram Generation': Miranda's photographs are fetched from an abundance of folders that remain unprocessed, with the exception of various favored filters, usually applied when taking the photograph. The printing of the images and the pen drawings are similarly direct, just like a desired signature on a t-shirt of record cover.
As in a radical response to the spreading pools of ink of Miranda's previous solo show at Hezi Cohen Gallery (The Luckiest People in the World, 2012), here the organic movement of the hand is reduced in favor of graphic layouts. In several of the photographs, Miranda allows the high-contrast outlines of vegetation or the light filtering through the curtains to veil the image with abstract forms. This immediate quality leads us to a domestic environment, to a private room suffused with adolescent dreams. This notion comes to form a full picture along with the wall drawings and the golden mobile piece, whose human dimensions suffuse the space with a melancholic sweetness.
Through the ambivalent environment created in this exhibition, the play between the confessed versus the hidden is revealed to be a vital, catalyzing element in Miranda's world, whose glance is reflected from each of the works, from the direct and averted gazes.