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| A lion dipped in milk

Impressions from a visit to the new exhibition of Guy Zagursky, “Up The Wall”

Ouzi Zur


Published in Hebrew on Nov. 23, 2020 14:03
This translation was not approved by Haaretz

In a backyard on Alfasi Street, not far from the huge flour mill silos and pigeons that circulate around them in endless cycles, in the space used for some tiny craft, Mirav Katri hosts Guy Zagursky’s marvelous exhibition. Katri’s initiative to host artists in alternative spaces (along with cooperative spaces of artists) are part of a necessary process for Israeli artists to fill in the gaps in traditional exhibition spaces. The situation is especially frustrating for sculptural artists like Guy Zagursky, whose work needs a wider space.

Thus, the whole mass of Zagursky’s work from the last year has moved from the studio to this exhibition in a way that has formed the block of works into a coherent display, which is also far beyond the sum of its components. Visiting the exhibition has a learning dimension in the experiential sense, as a journey into the heart Zagursky’s art and the sources of influence from which he draws, and everything is wrapped in something personal, intimate and biographical, not as noticeable as I remember in his previous exhibitions.

Zagursky is first and foremost a sculptor, akin to a farmer furrowing the land, he carves out of the tree, with his known craftsmanship, the life it hides deep within its log. This exhibition is a hymn to his talent, with a dash of wit thrown in the mix in stark contrast to current prevailing over-seriousness. And since there is no definite beginning or end in the display, I shall begin my wandering around exhibition with a work that connects applause and humour as well as how the three-dimensional sculpted image slips into the pictorial and back as an existential state, and the written word craves them leading to an ironic or personal external connection. This is a beautiful and expressive relief of a life-size lion head, carved from light wood panel. The upper part is coated with a thick layer of lacquer but the lower part is dipped to the middle line in an oily and glossy white, milky color, and here the transition from sculpture to painting and back takes place. Along the margin on the right the letters of the word milksop are carved, implying a seemingly hero who dissolves once dipped in milk and has, like us all, to deal with his fears.

From another wood panel, Zagursky created a cosmic relief that maps the surface of a star or planet, and the ripple of the wavy motion produced from the tops of the ridges is both symmetrical and abstract, and consists of the sculptural act but also of the raw wood’s eye mat. It is a work that takes place simultaneously in the tangible, sculptural material level, but also in the deceptively digital-like level.

One of the compartments in the exhibition is partially walled in the back with a wooden board along which Zagurski sketches of two pink triangles (the beauty of the contrast he repeatedly creates between the raw wood and the painted wood), from the edges to the middle, with a rectangular wooden board embossed on Gustav Courbet’s painting. Courbet’s famous vagina (the absolute vanishing point) is revealed beneath an amber layer of lacquer and between the lips of dark moss: a work that conjures up Marcel Duchamp’s voyeuristic surrealistic installation, « Étant donnés ».

The magic of a closer look reveals an order of toy jeeps that have undergone an accelerated destruction process; or in a kind of tribal shield or an unusual surfboard made of striped wood as a barcode, whose gleaming smooth perfection grows rounded and sharp, dark and light-coloured teeth, like an engineered organism of symmetry violated by a touch of extraordinary beauty, and the IKEA logo embedded in its striped flesh.

Zagursky is first and foremost a sculptor, akin to a farmer furrowing his land, extracts from the tree the life hidden in it with a rare plastic talent. This exhibition is a hymn to this talent of his, with a dash of clever humour thrown in the mix opposed to over-seriousness.

This is a partial journey in the richness of Zagursky’s exhibition, in which at the end of his stay there is a feeling that it can continue to multiply more and more within itself or in the memory and imagination of the visitor.