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Yaacov Dorchin's Iron Folds and Line Gestures on View at Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Yaacov Dorchin, House with a window and pathway.

TEL AVIV.- Yaacov Dorchin started out by creating paintings and drawings, and in retrospect one may say that a recurring interest in lines and stains is evident throughout his oeuvre. His two-dimensional work took a parallel course alongside his sculptural work, usually in series that seem to be, at least at first sight, clearly defined, almost obsessive arrays.

Painting and drawing were Dorchin's main artistic occupation until a fire broke out in his studio in Kibbutz Kfar Hachoresh in 1972. Shortly thereafter, he started making assemblages, and during the 1970s he gave precedence to wall reliefs and gave up drawing and painting for a time.

The dynamic compositions in his early drawings convey a feeling of random automatism. The lines alternately approach each other and withdraw, appear and disappear, gush and settle - all in accordance with a regulating impulse which is attentive to the artist's inner disposition while also leaving behind traces of images that refer to the outside world, bringing to mind biomorphic forms such as human hands or feet.

In the early 1980s Dorchin started using photographs he found in an old schoolbook of forensic medicine, which showed crime victims in various stages of decomposition. Dorchin screenprinted on paper blow-ups of details from these photographs: heads, parts of limbs, and sometimes even the lumps of earth in the hole where the body was buried. Then he drew over these prints with a black felt-tip pen (at times diluted with water and thus grayer) – thick, raw lines, which not only functioned as contour lines but were also textural. In many of these drawings Dorchin added – as an inscription in the work itself, or as its title – the word "Angel".

The unexpectedness of calculated chance is evident throughout Dorchin's painting, drawing and printing work. By creating tensions between lines and stains, alternately seizing and letting go his entangled scribbled lines, Dorchin produces fascinating, dynamic compositions that achieve a balance between filling and emptying, expansion and contraction, congregation and seclusion. The tension between line and material seems to correspond to or echo the tension that recurs in all of Dorchin's work – between the poetic and the concrete, between the mass that is a "given" and the line that seeks to be born of it and "get along" with it in order to preserve the human reality which is concealed within the material.

Relief Works
Dorchin's transition from painting to sculpture, which started in the early 1970s, was gradual and organic. He started making relief works that incorporated recycled organic matter, mainly bones, covered in layers of paint that had substantial presence. This process reflects to a great extent a characteristic trend in the history of sculpture in the first half of the twentieth century, typified by a transition from collage to assemblage, from dealing with fragile recycled materials to building with massive industrial materials and masses of iron.

As to Dorchin's perception of mass in terms of representation, the influence of Cubism is evident in his work – especially in his relief works – attempting as it does to present an image as perceived from several perspectives at once. Dorchin, like the Cubists, seeks the image that is concealed in-between the various gazes directed at the object.

The main motifs in Dorchin's sculptures are of animals, such as fish or turtles, which also appear in his drawings. The fish motif – or rather, fishhood and its characterization as a flowing form – is very near in spirit to Brâncuşi's drawings and sculptures, distinguished by minimalist concision of organic form on the one hand and employment of the natural liveliness inherent in animal forms, be it turtles or birds, on the other hand.

The window and the house are also recurring motifs in Dorchin's relief works. The window is a central image in the history of art in general and of modern art in particular, where it is both a key symbol of the new age and a notable image of the artistic act itself – a multi-level representation through which the work of art can allude to, and even reconstitute, the forms of Being.

It is interesting to note that despite the heavy mass of the scrap iron pieces from which Dorchin constructs his sculptures and relief works, the impression they give is of constant change. This impression is especially strong in houses to which a pathway or a road are connected as a sort of umbilical cord while the house itself, refusing to take root, remains detached and mobile – effortlessly drifting to another place, another time, other spaces of dreams and memories.

Dorchin favors multi-valence, taking care to anchor the subtler meanings of his sculptures in materiality: "The sculptures took away my words; that is why I can walk around them like a mouse and never capture them. I find it difficult to be precise when speaking about the works, because I make them so as not to speak about them…A work that can be explicated is often not worth making. My sort of being or existence engenders these material constellations with all their literariness, symbolism, conceptualism etc. The work is equivalent to an interaction between many components. It is a platform for all sorts of things. It provides a specific summons through which they can all come together and achieve presence."

The Exhibition is shown at the Tel Aviv Museum of Artand ends September 1st.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art | Yaacov Dorchin | symbolism | conceptualism |

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