Opened on May 7, 2016, this exhibition at Contemporary by Golconda, Tel Aviv, whose title Eternal Return is not only a citation from Friedrich Nietzsche’s oeuvre, but also a sly comment on the recurrence of realist aesthetics, traces the transition from the same to the same as a philosophic principle that has a long-standing presence in both classic and contemporary art.
While European modernism is largely characterized by the rapid changes of artistic styles seeking to establish aesthetic originality, the return to realism in the works of David Nipo and Eran Webber is representative of not only the individualized departures from modern art that Israeli contemporary artists make but also their interpretations in terms that philosophy can offer.
Mario Perniola proposes that the aesthetic transition from the same to the same is the source of radical difference that can define the distinctiveness of particular artworks, artistic events and individual artists. Nietzsche’s notion of eternal return parallels no less well the expectation that recognizable artistic styles recur in artwork. Nippo’s pastels not only document how this artist revisits rural Negev as an expansive, symmetrically balanced landscape, they also show that subtle, almost imperceptible changes in the aesthetic framing of grassy terrain can produce radically different aesthetic experiences.
This principle recurs in his portraits that are positioned between abstract sketches and realist representations that both highlight what makes each female model irreducibly different and what defines the individual style of the artist as he recreates the painterly perspective he directs toward his subjects. This technique is diametrically reversed in Nipo’s self-portraits that hearken back to classical painting and modern realism as much as they refer to advertising poster aesthetics and everyday life photography practices. That these are studies in classical painterly themes is brought further home by the still life series that affirm that the radical difference of artistic style emerges from the repeated but varied transition that artworks make from reality to representation.
Eran Weber brings this into a sharp focus as he casts his models into bronze likeness that reverse the interrelations between inner and outer reality. These sculptures feature Biblical themes, personal stories and pictorial conventions, such as the crown of thorns symbolizing personal suffering, returning in the guise of these contemporary works.
The self-representation of Nipo as a fisher also reaffirms the recurrence of classical art historical motifs in contemporary art. However, as the nudes of Webber highlight, it is in the transition between classical themes and realist representation that these Israeli artists achieve their irreducible stylistic individuality that balances between personal and collective narratives and the radical otherness of ever changing reality.
Yet, it is the series of psychedelic, somberly reflective drawings by Yoni Danziger, in The Silence of the Butterfly exhibition, that demonstrate that, rather than the open-ended transition from classical themes to their contemporary articulations, it is the eternal return of the individual artistic style in each work that remains the dominant philosophical dimension of art.
The metaphysical presence of artists giving artworks their existence is transmogrified over the course of time into the posthumous, timeless, self-referential identity between the artist and the recurrence of his or her artistic style or signature images in works of art, such as the three-quarter perspective found in Vermeer’s portraits that Nipo’s paintings echo.