Amikam Toren

Anthony Reynolds Gallery

Despite its evident relation to Conceptual art, Amikam Toren’s work eludes categorization and stubbornly refuses to be slotted with any current artistic trend. One consistent concern of Toren’s work, the relationship between object and image, is articulated here in the ambivalent status of the iconic signs, painted in acrylic on pulped cardboard, which are attached to boxes for appliances.

The signs themselves—a rendering of a glass for “fragile,” arrows indicating the right way up, numbers above two bars specifying the order of the boxes to be stacked—constitute a general vocabulary for handling any kind of packaged product, from Panasonic color televisions to assorted cotton wool. This ubiquitous language of prohibition and command is ironically replayed as the “universal” language of art, invested with connotations of the mythical and archetypal, only to refer the mystique of esthetics back to a different and primarily functional symbolic register. Similarly, stacks of boxes are turned into totems while never ceasing to be stacks of boxes; the titles laconically repeat the number of boxes used in the piece. This doubling metonymically relates each sign and painted surface to objects, materials, and vocabularies which would seem to be characterized precisely by the lack of a metaphorical dimension. The work relates to those practices which developed out of conceptualism to reintroduce visually seductive elements. Accordingly, the pieces can never be reduced to the set of routines that apparently governs their arrangement and appearance.

By carefully controlling his working process, Toren transforms the cartons into open-ended interpretive structures. It is perhaps this aspect of the work, the clusters of suggestions and associations it produces, which is most remarkable. It becomes possible to read the “impurity” of the cartons as the unacknowledged corollary of the pristine minimalist box, or the emphasis on the small print of product handling and packaging as codifying the pervasive and global codes of corporate identity. There is also a pleasure and humor in elevating the overlooked and functional to the level of esthetic significance. The nature of Toren’s investigation into the conditions and definitions of the art object assigns his work a singular place in the context of current British art.

Desa Philippi