Critics’ Picks

Pinchas Cohen Gan, “Standard Religious Art,” 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas, 70 x 50”.

Pinchas Cohen Gan, “Standard Religious Art,” 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas, 70 x 50”.

Tel Aviv

Pinchas Cohen Gan

Tel Aviv Museum of Art
27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd, POB 33288 The Golda Meir Cultural and Art Center
December 7, 2012–May 19, 2013

This retrospective focuses on the development of Pinchas Cohen Gan’s conceptual syntax and perception of the pictorial space over the time he spent in New York from the 1970s to the present. In an attempt to underscore the considerable breadth of his influence, guest curator Galia Bar Or has presented manifestos, private journals, and artist’s books. Of significant weight within this exhibition is the series “Standard Religious Art,” 2012, the artist’s most recent work. Here Cohen Gan gestures at his own exploration of Christian imagery (to which he devoted an exhibition in 1993) and his continued preoccupation with dogma.

The series includes three white canvases over which the artist has collaged a variety of materials in a specific, repetitive rhythm, including an image of a religious scene, notations and drawings, and iconic Christian imagery. Throughout these works, he notes distances between shapes, draws geometric formulas of areas, and makes references to chapters in Psalms. Hints of his own traumas appear in cryptic remarks, which he has added in Hebrew, such as “REMEMBERED ART IS A FORGOTTEN GRIEF.”

Many of Cohen Gan’s mixed media works merge poignant, brutally honest social commentary with textual and formal lyricism, exposing personal experiences of displacement, primarily, his immigration from Morocco to Israel at the age of five. In the 1970s, for instance, he published an artist’s book that documented visits to refugee camps in Jericho; his ominous paintings from the early 1980s denounced the Lebanon War; and more recent works—like the three white canvases described above—raise questions about truth and social mores by creating literal and visual hybrids that use political, societal and personal failures as subject matter. In short, he has always been a tenacious critic. At a time where many feel that Israel pays little heed to the outcomes of its actions, the decision to celebrate his works in an established museum seems almost subversive.