TEL AVIV.- Art is a psychical event that is subject to intellectual patterns, Pinchas Cohen Gan wrote in 1982, so it is not surprising that for his current exhibition he chose a title that juxtaposes tears with redemption. Cohen Gan has never barred the poetic and the emotional from the verbal channels of his art, while at the same time abstaining from any sentimentality in its visual channels. This abstinence is discernible mainly in the human figure that has characterized his work from its outset; in the low-tech everyday materials he makes use of, and in the raw and direct design. But here Cohen Gan performs a miracle: in his work a schematic figure, which lacks actuality, does not arouse empathy, does not project subjectivity or release even a threads end of emotion, nonetheless accumulates an affinity to all that is meaningful and heart-rending in its human fragility.
The Cohen-Ganian figure plays a leading role in this exhibition, and is a connecting link among all its display spaces from the first space, which presents the first forms of its crystallization in his works from the 70s, to the last space, which displays works Cohen Gan created a few months ago, in July 2012. Cohen Gans focus, however, is first and foremost systemic: the point of departure of his investigations is not a subject or theme, and their outcome is certainly never a single art object (even though each of his works is clearly a work in its own right), and this quality is already discernible in his conceptual works from the early 70s. At times Cohen Gan presents a real formula, in which the signs are mathematical, enjoying the discovery of simplifying a complex system into a clearly legible skeletal formulation but we are also speaking about series of works or clusters of series that connect with one another on principles of systems from the fields of science, morality, belief, culture, linguistics, and the art language.
Cohen Gans consistent and innovative demarches, which are shown in this exhibition and expressed in the many books he has published, distinguish him as one of the most important and original artists ever active in Israel. Cohen Gan was one of the pioneers of awareness of the structured nature of the concepts of spatiality and identity, on the basis of a central event in his biography the experience of being uprooted from his birthplace, the city of Meknes in Morocco, when he was five, and the journey to Israel via Marseille. The chronological route of the exhibition begins with the conceptual actions he executed in the early 70s; continues through the crystallization of the human figure that is typical of his work, as one of the path breakers for what in the late 70s would be called the New Image; and concludes with recent works that explore the tensions between art history (and myth) and the development of science, and between Christianity (and Western culture) and Jewish art. The skeletal structure of the exhibition is stabilized around a spinal cord of constitutive works and series, artist books among them, in display spaces that open into one another and that are arranged in chronological order.
The exhibition is accompanied by two books published simultaneously for the occasion by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art: a new artist book, The Book of Activities, Concepts and Objects, 1970-2000, and the exhibition catalogue, When My Redemption Comes I Shall Treasure My Tears, which offers broad surveys of Cohen Gans artistic path: of the art language he has developed and of the way he has shaped the story of his life.
For more than four decades Pinhas Cohen Gan has pursued a fascinating course in both his life and his work, through the power of renewal and the meaning of artistic creation. The profession of art is the most ancient in the world, Cohen Gan has stated. To absorb and understand it, and particularly the profession of painting thats a very slow process. But when art is absorbed in a culture it becomes an inseparable part of Mendeleevs table of elements.