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"Adding and Subtracting" Installation, Hamumche Alternative Space, Tel Aviv
Tamar Dubrovsy's oeuvre oscillates between two antithetical poles: order and discipline versus total chaos. On one hand, small, fine drawings on paper, a grid of ink lines with lines with pastel-colored touches, and on the other, expressive, wild large-scale installations. Extending in between these two extremes, over two and a half decades, is a body of work incredible both in scope and in versatility.
At the beginning of her artistic career Dubrovsky created figurative paintings with a tendency for abstraction a la new horizons, mainly influenced by Fima, one of her teachers at that time, who was particularly dominant. In the early 1980s she went to the States and was exposed to American Abstract Expressionism. In the US - and after her return, in Israel too - she devoted herself to purely abstract, distinctly colorful and material painting in which a preoccupation with movement began to evolve. The swift, thick brush strokes and the hand movement, in large expressive gestures, gradually took over the paintings. The two antithetical elements, order and chaos, coexist in Dubrovsky's art by its very nature, and it is the conflict there between which generates the works. At times, one element overpowers the other, whereas at others, the conflict remains unresolved, and the work maintains the tension inherent in indecision. Dubrovsky's fluctuation over the years back and forth between works on canvas and works on paper is likewise closely linked to these two elements. The work in oil on canvas allows for greater freedom of expression, while that on paper calls for a more restrained, measured approach.
Dubrovsky's colorful abstract is reminiscent of the expressive abstract by American Richard Diebenkorn whom the artist greatly admires. This applies to the abstract painting characteristic of his work in the 1950s' after his figurative period and before his geometric abstract. Dubrovsky was not attracted by abstraction which relies on real images but rather adhered to the pure abstract still typical of her work; abstract devoid of an actual source of reference. This abstract evolved in the later "black " works into a highly concentrated painting, whose point of origin is rarely an object in reality; the latter, however, serves as a mere trigger for the beginning of work, and there is no trace of it in the final product. As opposed to this, at times the quest for an abstract form which may be translated into meaning renders images which function as Rorschach ink-blots - one minute we seem to be faced with an entirely abstract image, and the next, it becomes a rooster, a porcupine, a fish .
The black paper works exhibited extensively within the framework of the show Adding and Subtracting develop and take to an extreme an image which originated as a scribbling of sorts back in the early 1990s' works on paper and canvas. During that time Dubrovsky tried to create depth-possessing, golem-like forms, through recurring, near-automatic scribbling, at times with her very fingers. In the black paper works this image becomes central, often exclusive. In the process of work Dubrovsky begins to seek a form while scratching and digging in the paper, and when this form begins to emerge, the artist slightly darkens the enveloping background. The brighter and more concrete the image becomes, the darker the background turns, in a similar manner to a process of photographic printing where the photographer, or printer, exposes certain areas in the paper to light for a longer duration in order to make them darker, thus highlighting the contrast between these and the lighter areas. In Dubrovsky's case, the process usually ends with a strong concrete image against a totally black background, comprised of multiple layers of color - layers of covering. Indeed, the act of digging in the paper and the quest for something to cling to or in which to find consolation, exposes a mere golem, namely something closed alluding to an inherent content of greater significance; however, this unexplored territory is inaccessible - for further scratching will only tear the paper, rendering a void, a nothingness instead of some "being". The black paper frame thus resembles an impervious structure, a "black box" out of which the artist endeavors to extract essential information, gingerly, while testing the limits; too deep and careless a security into the box may impair its core and destroy the data. As aforesaid, the black paper works take to an extreme the attempt to create depth and a three-dimensional illusion in painting. The act of digging in the paper and the voluminous-looking raw images have, in fact, created a real, and not only illusory, three-dimensionality. This group of works is indeed the link between the expressive canvas paintings exhibited at Ein Harod within the framework of the show Color in Movement (Curator: Galia Bar-Or, 1993) and the recent installation works. At Ein Harod Dubrovsky did not settle for hanging the paintings on the walls, but rather added direct color touches on the walls and floor, thus making the first move in going out to the space. to three - dimensionality.
Unwittingly perhaps the artist has followed painters such as Keith Haring, who on top of conventional hanging of paintings on walls would continue them on the walls and inner columns as well , in order to create a fuller work, which would embrace the viewer and continuously capture his gaze, forcing him to alter his viewing habits and the interrelations with the work from ones of viewer-object to reciprocity where viewer and work are one, equally positioned within a single cycle of occurrences.
The installation. which started crystallizing in her show Tangle at the Musrara Art Center, Jerusalem (Curator: Rachel Sukman, 1998) culminated in the exhibition Adding and Subtracting at the Mumche Gallery, Tel Aviv. Formally, both installations are reminiscent of Jackson Pollock's color dripping works on large-scale canvases, and mainly those painted in black on white canvases. At the time, Pollock created works characterized by depth through color dripping and thrusting, while leaning over the canvases laid on the floor. Due to the unpremeditated evolution of the works, they were compared back then to jazz improvisations. It is interesting to note that Dubrovsky chose to inaugurate her exhibition at the Mumch Gallery through a collaboration with painter and musician Harold Rubin, who played jazz improvisations inspired by the installation work.
The work started out as a "departure" from painting, as a rebellion against the two-dimensional limitations of paper and canvas; the building blocks comprising the installation were but a three-dimensional translation of the thick-colored brush strokes in her recent oil paintings. This refers mainly to the series of small-scale oils on canvas, where the abstract paintings consist of strong brush strokes in all directions. The very same thousands of building blocks were made of paper and glue through intense manual work, which extended over several months. It is as though the interaction with the material and its modeling have imprinted in each such unit a tinge of the creator, transforming it into some kind of a metaphorical DNA unit carrying data regarding the artist. Indeed, it is hard not to perceive this installation as a highly personal work, which Dubrovsky created as if she were driven by some force, almost against her will; a work which touches upon exposed nerves, conjuring up painful memories of a daughter of Holocaust survivors. Comprised, as aforesaid, of thousands of units linked to one another with plastic "tendons", the installation brings to mind, perhaps more than anything else, a pile of bones floating in mid air. It is reminiscent of the Biblical Vision of the Dry Bones, especially in the contexts of the Holocaust, and the Golem of Prague. Once the "bones" are fashioned, the artist tries to breathe life into them by detaching them from the pile and their attachment in the air, organ to organ. There, in mid air, in the warm magnesium lighting, the work appears like an incubated body, evolving and growing on its own, with neither order nor system, threatening to break out of the living space allotted thereto.
Albeit open to interpretation, Tamar Dubrovsky's art evades a concrete statement; it turns to the extreme abstract, that which is underlined by no identifiable source. In this sense too, Dubrovsky turns out to be somewhat of a "stepdaughter" to Israeli art. She does not take the main road, but rather her own side road, and her artistic agenda is congruent with neither that of canonical Israeli art, nor that of international art. In the conceptual 1970s Dubrovsky engaged in figurative painting with a tendency for the lyrical abstract. In the post modern 1980s during which the realist image resurfaced, the artist turned to pure abstraction. Dubrovsky's oeuvre embeds an intrinsic contradiction: on one hand, a strong belief in painting (or art) and its capacity to affect the viewer (or the world), and on the other, avoidance of concrete statement through the work. If any, the meaning is exposed randomly as it were. Out of the chaos, the elements are gradually isolated and the boundaries - clarified; a new "being" is born into the world.
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