Critics’ Picks

View of “Variations on 1679.jpg,” 2020.

View of “Variations on 1679.jpg,” 2020.


Iddo Markus

Herzliya Museum
4 Ha'banim St
February 29–August 15, 2020

Currently on view online and on-site at the Herzliya Museum, “Portrait Time II” presents a cluster of seven solo shows. Among them is “Variations on 1679.jpg,” consisting of hundreds of paintings and prints by Iddo Markus, hung side by side and culled from a series of approximately one thousand works. All depict the same woman, her head tilted toward her right shoulder, her scruffy hair a shadowy aura. While the posture repeats itself ad nauseam, the visual information and, by extension, her recognizability—her very personhood—vary from one canvas to the next. The room she is shown in is abstracted or composed of layered details. Wearing shorts, she leans on a white Keter chair—a quintessential emblem of Israeli life—whereas particulars are left out of many close-up portraits.

If Markus works in the vein of photography-minded painters like Gerhard Richter and the late Peter Dreher, his pictures also feel informed by the pervasive and casual surveillance practiced by citizens, communication platforms, and state mechanisms. Markus has been (dis)figuring 1679.jpg since 2016, when he found it on an acquaintance’s Facebook page. He screenshot the image, reproduced it with home printers, and used the prints as source materials for paintings, drawings, and monotypes. He continued to return to the picture on a nearly daily basis, creating a rhythm of repetitive gestures that asks again and again who this person is and, by proxy, who anyone is. Markus scooped up an image of a woman he knows from the eternal stream of social media, and yet his actions hardly guarantee 1679.jpg a better fate. The “sitter” is simultaneously immortalized and forgotten: Her portrait is obsessively amplified and studied; however, Markus lessens our understanding of this woman with each additional portrait, suggesting an existential inexhaustibility amid a broader visual culture intent on detrimental, endless self-exposure.