God’s Eye View (Michal Rovner, Topography)

(Michal Rovner, Shomron, 2012)

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Went to see “Topography,” the new Michal Rovner exhibition at Pace Gallery, on view through December 22. Like all of Rovner’s work, this particular show is possessed by the experience of place and time, landscape and archaeological layering, the archaic and the technological. For a long while now, Rovner has been combining video into her work, which brings motion to what would otherwise be a still plastic image and sculptural form. In these works, large shadowy outlines of cypress trees wave back and forth, while lines of tiny human figures are viewed from a god’s eye perspective as they move across the topographical lines, this way and that way. I’m not sure if the space is “smooth” or “striated.” There are two main bodies of work here. The first group of are images are projected onto LCD screens. These assemblages are flat, and a little glossy. The second consists of images projected onto segmented limestone slabs lined up one next to the other. These works are more rusticated in texture. I like them both. Critics might suspect that the view of landscape in Rovner’s work is marked by a nationalistic impulse, but the human presence has been so dwarfed and the land has been so abstracted and even hardened that the order of things evoked here is more inhuman than human, more supernatural than natural. Rovner’s work reminds me of landscapes by Anselm Kiefer, 1980s neo-expressionism, and late spiritual in art. Having mastered the biblical gesture, Rovner and Kiefer complement each other kind of perfectly. I have always been taken in by both artists, and am very curious to know what younger, more politically hard-bitten Israeli artists think about her work. (Individual titles include Terasot, Shomron, Geva’ot, Echo, Brushei Lailah, and Har Lavan. They are all 2012)

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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