Gabriella Klein / Back to Back
Curator / Tali Ben-Nun
Maya Gallery, Tel Aviv
A family vacation in Greece, family photos, and reflections on the heritage of classical sculpture are the materials Gabriella Klein’s current exhibition is assembled from.
In this body of work, Klein’s aesthetic and conceptual approach draws its influence from the language of film. Cutting and splicing, editing frames into new compositions, zooming in and out, working with locations and actors, building an atmosphere, and creating a panoramic sequence – these techniques all combine to form visual sentences and fragments of narratives. Unlike film, the drama in Klein’s paintings is not recorded on set as it unfolds; it only materializes in retrospect.
In the seclusion of her studio, Klein recreates a vacation, casting a fresh gaze on her family, distinct from the familiar day to day. The studio becomes an editing room where frames are cut and pasted together into inorganic pictorial sequences. All this cutting and pasting allows for imaginative hybrids and fantastical scenes to emerge. Klein formulates a hallucinatory story that hints at the unease underlying the family idyll.
The pictorial sequences are composed of fragmented bodies taken from here and there. This act of amputation disturbs the integrity of the body and generates deformities. Two halves of a thigh of different skin tones join as a single limb. A hand and forearm are laid over another painted surface, forming an elongated arm that merges two paintings together.
Two compositions of bodies recumbent in the sun become a diptych of amputated body parts. Each painting is like an extension from or to another painting, a component of a missing whole.
A fragmented, broken sequence is gradually constructed by the pairing of strangers. For an instant the pair looks like companions sitting back to back in an act of support and friendship; the next moment they seem in conflict, their backs turned on each other.
Each painting is a fragment of a scene on a still island in the heart of the sea. Like weary giants laying on their bellies or backs at a phantasmagoric wellness resort, bodies resemble timeless stone sculptures that blend with the colors and topography of sea, sand, mountain, rock, and cave.
All the paintings reflect the gaze of a woman and mother, a gaze that registers beauty as well as horror, concern and empathy for her subjects. In only one painting does Klein turn her gaze — the viewer’s gaze — onto herself. In a fiercely expressive painting, disturbingly cropped as a truncated torso, a female figure is depicted wearing blue work overalls, zipper slightly open. It is the artist in her work environment, posing as if a nude model under the gaze of a male painter. In “Back to Back,” however, the painter is a woman who faces the history of art, centuries of established concepts of beauty, what still constitutes the ideal conception of family, and the culture of leisure and recreation – and that’s where she says, “Cut!”