Nahum Tevet

Nahum Tevet lives and works in Tel Aviv, “the white city,” which is in the midst of a construction boom even as areas are deteriorating. His work reflects the quintessence of the city—its light and its air, and above all its indomitability. Despite the title of the current exhibition, “Works, 1994–2006,” the show begins with a key work from 1976 (though reworked in 2006), Pages from a Catalogue (Cézanne), 14 Times 81 x 65 cm, which gives a two-dimensional introduction to what lies ahead. Its monochromatic (off-white), De Stijl–like system of forms creates a tension that is repeated time and again throughout the exhibition, alerting us to the fact that Tevet’s sculpture derives from painting. His repetitive arrays of geometric objects resemble vocabularies of shapes arranged within the confines of a space, where they readdress their visual associations thanks to their recontextualization. No object has meaning until conjoined with its brethren.

Man with Camera, 1992–94, constructed out of painted wood and mirrors, evokes the interior of a house that has been turned upside down and shaken: Furniture has landed haphazardly, yet
a minute later, the configuration loses its feeling of disorder and appears to be totally composed. Small tablelike structures are placed around, on top of, and within larger structures that resemble skyscrapers or other solid, imposing forms; these define an imaginary boundary for this delicate, beautiful, and controlled chaos. Seven Walks, 1997–2004, employs touches of the mint green and light pink of waiting rooms. This large-scale work, which extends to the outer reaches of the gallery, resembles a cityscape in the process of being erected or demolished. A bird’s-eye view of Tevet’s works gives the impression that the pieces continue beyond and below the surface. Like all great skylines, this one takes your breath away. The mazelike Question Five, 2000–2003, allows the viewer to enter visually but not physically, its paths leading to an end that cannot be seen. Strangely, the bright yellow and mild Astroturf green of several of the work’s objects, rather than the dark colors of its larger elements, visually anchor the work. In the distance stand miniature “tables,” whose elongated legs lend them a sense of fragility and grandeur. Viewers can actually enter and walk through Several Things, 2006. This work leaves the hard-edged, masculine world of building behind, including fewer and smaller architectural forms than many of the other works and instead surrounding the viewer with vessels, some of which sup- port or contain other objects. Its spectrum of peach, pink, beige, white, and natural wood tones is ethereal.

Tevet’s ability to transform space is masterful, at times evoking the constructivist approaches of the Bauhaus and Minimalism but without their typically cold and mechanical quality. This exhibition, sensitively curated by Sarit Shapira, provides an excellent overview of a career that spans more than thirty-five years, giving insight into an artist and a place that seem to be perfectly matched.

Amy Simon