Critics’ Picks

Roee Rosen, Justine Frank from “The Stained Portfolio, 1927–1928,” 2003–2008, gouache on paper, 13 x 15".

Tel Aviv

Roee Rosen

Tel Aviv Museum of Art
27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd, POB 33288 The Golda Meir Cultural and Art Center
January 15–April 30, 2016

Roee Rosen has adopted alter egos and created fictional biographies throughout his thirty-year career. His retrospective “Group Exhibition” presents drawings, paintings, text, and film authored by his different personas. The works are filled with sexual and violent scenes à la Marquis de Sade and Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye (1928), but their scandalousness is diffused by Rosen’s intellectual humor. However, to fully enjoy these often small-scale drawings, one must carefully read the accompanying texts that take the form of novellas or fictional biographies.

Rosen’s characters are crafted and address a collective identity crisis that derives from moral issues specific to Israeli Jewish society. Justine Frank, 2003–2008, for instance, depicts the Belgian Surrealist Jewish artist, active in the 1920s through 1943. She was a feminist who challenged her male Surrealist colleagues by integrating religious Jewish references with extraverted sexuality in her paintings and drawings.

The profound intimacy Rosen achieves with his characters is astonishing, as he fully embodies their layered personas, desires, and fears. In Live and Die as Eva Braun, 1995–97, Rosen allows viewers to experience the last days, death, and postmortem life of Adolf Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun. Black-and-white banners use text and storybook-like drawings to present Braun’s perspective. Rosen contemplates annihilation in various mediums, perhaps the most immediate being a series of pupil-shaped canvases, titled The Funeral Paintings, 2006–, in which he imagines scenes from his own funeral from within the grave. Rosen delivers sex, thrills, religion, and death, the subconscious running wild in his work. Freud would have loved it.