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"Izhar Patkin: the Wandering Veil": mid-career show opens at Tel Aviv Museum of Art
This mid-career survey, titled, “The Wandering Veil” is structured thematically rather than chronologically.

TEL AVIV.- A major exhibition of over 100 works by Izhar Patkin frames two central narratives in the artist’s 30-year career: the crisis of the physicality of the image in painting and in representation in the age of cinema; and the power of the global city.

The exhibition opened concurrently on 21st June at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and on June 23rd at The Open Museum in Tefen, northern Israel, until November 2012. The show will travel to MASS MoCA in 2013.

This mid-career survey, titled, “The Wandering Veil” is structured thematically rather than chronologically. It focuses on the last decade, but also includes groundbreaking earlier work.

At the heart of the exhibition are six rooms enveloped with Patkin’s scenic veil paintings. Ethereal and dreamlike, they tread the boundaries between illusion and reality; a cross-pollination of nationalities and religions.

The works on 14’ high pleated tulle are the fruit of his collaboration with the late American-Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949–2001). When Patkin started this visionary project, the two men decided that the Muslim and the Jew would meet on the veil. They chose “Veiled Threats” as their working title. The work culminates with The Veil Suite (2007), which is based on Shahid’s last poem. It is a requiem in the form of a painting, a requiem on loss and love, presence and absence, veil and prevail.

The scenic veil paintings have the weightlessness of a cinematic projected image. “Cinema and Duchamp changed everything in painting,” Patkin says. “When I went to school, Super-8 films, performance art, and the documentary of performance were a door out of the canvas ghetto. That door was very seductive. Today it’s video, but I’m still in love with the promise of painting and its object”.

Aside for the veil paintings, the exhibition includes other major works. Madonna and Child (2003-12), a sculpture produced at the legendary Sèvres porcelain manufacture is being shown for the first time. It depicts a life-size figure of the Virgin cradling an empty canvas and seated on L'Amour menaçant, the renowned 18th century sculpture by Étienne-Maurice Falconet, also in Sèvres porcelain.

Patkin’s unique visual vocabulary defies categorization. In his work, theme invents technique and vice versa casting the objects he creates in a continuous theater of becoming.

Another work of the last decade is The Messiah’s glAss (2003-2007), which was first shown at a Pompidou center exhibition. The large-scale sculpture is a hybrid of the Arc of Covenant and a donkey. A glass donkey head wearing a crown made of glass donkey ears takes the place of the crowned Torah in the Arc. The work addresses the looming threats of global Messianic bad faith, and takes on identity issues of contemporary Judaism in Israel. Key to Patkin’s vision is the confluence of themes from his homeland with narratives of global cultural migration.

The glass donkey can be seen as a “sidekick Sancho Panza” for an earlier sculpture, Don Quijote Segunda Parte (1987). This colorful anodized aluminum cast was shown at the 1990 Venice Biennale. Patkin depicts the famous fictional wandering knight holding up the book “Don Quijote Segunda Parte” and looking at himself in a mirror.

“The Wandering Veil” encompasses Patkin’s life as well as the mercurial nature of his objects. His work straddles the line between performance, theater, video and film, abandoning neither painting nor sculpture. The veils challenge not only the physical conventions of painting, but also the conventions of visual expression itself: abstraction, representation and manifestation. Patkin sees the three as fundamentally rooted in the illusive vocabulary of our religious doctrines: monotheistic, iconic and pagan.

“I wander among cultures,” says Patkin. “The chasm between abstraction, representation and manifestation is embodied in my story. Characters develop in the tension between the material and the image.”

Since his 1981 debut show of “invented” reproductions at the Kitchen in New York, Patkin has continued to challenge himself and us with his conundrums.

On view are several early works that illustrate his ability to surprise. These include The Meta-Bride (1982-83), which incorporates the marriage of metaphor and identity and was the centerpiece of in his “Meta Bride” exhibition at the Holly Solomon Gallery in 1983. Selections from the series, “Gardens for the Global City” (1991-current) reflect narratives of migration. These oil paintings on aluminum mesh screens use compositions and motifs of traditional oriental carpets to tell the story of modern paintings.

Izhar Patkin was born in Israel in 1955 and has lived in the United States since 1977.

His work has been collected in depth by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; the Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; The Open Museum, Tefen; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and many other prominent institutions. He has exhibited extensively worldwide.

“Izhar Patkin: The Wandering Veil” is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated hardcover book. Essential supplements to the illustrations are the essays and conversations by Herbert Muschamp, Sefi Rachlevsky, Shimon Adaf, Shlomzion Kenan, David Ross, Ellen Ginton, Ruthi Ofek and Itamar Levy. The book includes poems by Agha Shahid Ali, Mahmoud Darwish and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

The 300 pages volume is published in English and Hebrew by the Tel Aviv Museum, The Open Museum/Tefen and MASS MoCA and will be available in the Museum Stores.

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