As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him
Curator: David Frenkel
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Rotem Rozenboim’s painting is virtuosic, infantile and wild, violent and disturbing. Impressions pile up, accumulate, flow and flip in a space that envelops indoors and outdoors, psychological and political. Using a mixture of acrylic paint, exploding rage and black humor, he provides a stage for paranoia and the destruction of daily life. His characters undergo existential battles and offer us scraps of stories, while making a pathetic attempt to suck a bit more juice out of a lifetime which is running out. The imagery is packed and replete with indecent hints. It overflows and stretches, distorting itself in its effort to liberate itself from a committal context.
Starting with the exhibition title, with its excessive and performative length, we are confronted with the volume and climate that will envelop us in the exhibition. Jules – one of the main characters in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”, played by Samuel L. Jackson – is etched in the memory as he disposes of his rage, while quoting revenge prophecies from the Book of Ezekiel in a psychotic pathos and with flashing eyes, until he takes his next victim. Some of this music also echoes in the prophecy of destruction from the Book of Amos which appears in the title: a cataclysmic chain of fateful events destined to guarantee widespread catastrophe and the end of an era.
In Rozenboim’s work, the viewer encounters multiple perspectives and narratives. Sometimes we are exposed to a situation from a position of voyeurism and at other times the viewer is invited into an intimate experience in a world the painting makes available to her. In some cases the viewer actually finds herself positioned within the work, with just her fingers searching its bottom, like a kind of virtual reality, or like a parent to a premature infant who can only access the child through the intermediary of gloves in an incubator. The painting is packed with parts of objects: feet, eyes, genitals and mostly hands in a variety of roles – playing, painting, battling to escape from troubles or offering lame assistance from above.
The painting act itself recurs like reflective thinking in ruses that integrate varying levels of fiction. Sometimes it is a painting within a painting – tiny drawings that constitute a miniature, concise model of the work that hosts them. Another recurring motif is tattoos sketched in rough lines, body art carved into the skin which reference part of the practice of the artist in real life. Like them, plants also live and act in the space, they activate the space and are interwoven in fields of signs of human life. They also contribute a biographical layer and hint at life outside of the studio.
In the work “The Painter (Lynch)”, for example, we meet a concoction of occurrences, busy forms gather in the left half of the work in a movement of attack, with paintbrushes of multiple types and sizes popping out. Each paintbrush could be used even by a plant as a weapon to get revenge, or perhaps as a magic wand to escape into an imaginary space. Here Rozenboim drew inspiration from “Painter” – a grotesque video work from 1995 by Paul McCarthy. McCarthy himself is a wild sorcerer experienced in shock tactics, whose work overflows with bodily fluids and ridiculous, idiotic characters.
The anchors to reality are weak, and the painting adopts material from it in a selective manner. Often ideas formulate from images from reality, from observation of media and esoteric photographs sampled from the internet. It might be, let’s say, current events material such as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN – Danny Danon- who models the art of victimhood. Or it could be a reference from art history such as the distorted “Vanitas” skull from the bottom of the painting “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein the Younger, blown up to record scale in a carrot field under a radioactive night sky (“Eurosceptic”). In any case, it seems that everything passes through the same particle accelerator, through the same mental digestive system which increases the intensiveness and speed of things, shooting them beyond the boundary of what reason can comprehend.
Diagonals cross the compositions and intensify the storm winds. Everything is saturated in movement and instability like a goldfish trying hard to survive in a glass fishbowl which is about to spill its contents, or a man at wit’s end who in just a minute might either save or let fall a helpless infant. Although the majority of the works are stratified and collect more and more layers over an extended working process, they succeed in maintaining some kind of raw quality of primitive life forms, pre-cultural or dystopic. In Rozenboim’s carnival, the heroes are skillfully ripped to pieces, they celebrate the madness of life on the edge, as well as their inevitable finiteness. They wallow in ecstasy, they pop out of the paint-covered canvas in a noisy, restless glimmer which continues its comic movement even outside of the frame.