Yoav Ben Dov – Language to Matter

Past Exhibition

14.10.2010 - 10.01.2011

For two decades, the sculpture, painting, and video works of Yoav Ben Dov have touched the borderline between the Israeli and Jewish localities, as well as the reciprocity between nature and culture.

For Ben Dov, the present exhibition marks two decades of searching for a place and of creating a language through material. In this exhibition, Ben Dov suggests his interpretations of the Israeli existence by using the language of material, and challenges the current Israeli mentality that is characterized by culture becoming a non-culture, the non-culture becomes dominant on the road (car accidents), on the street (violence and knife culture), and in government (physical and moral corruption).

Language is the basis of every human culture as well as the foundation of every artistic creation. The language in which Ben Dov speaks is the Hebrew language that is connected to tradition and Jewish sources (not necessarily the religious ones). For Ben Dov, our culture is deeply rooted in the Bible, the Book of Books, the speeches of the prophets and the vision of the kings, and it is a sort of cultural operating instructions for the way we should be living, here and now. Hebrew culture forms the cultural infrastructure of every culture, whatever it might be, determining principles of moral and good manners.

While in his previous exhibitions – like Shepherd (2007), Home (2005), Olive (2002), Tzabar (2000), Wheat (1999) and Pomegranate (1999), Ben Dov focused on symbols that maintain the deep connection with the Jewish culture, in this present exhibition he outlines a way of understanding and realizing the Hebrew culture. The exhibition touches on deep strata of culture and art in their governmental and social context. Ben Dov exhibits artworks created during a long period of time, but it is not a  retrospective exhibition, it rather presents the fact that Ben Dov’s creative process is a continuously evolving one, and no work is finished until it is finally  installed.

The works that open the exhibition, among them – Small Money, Zero Dollar, Simple Man, A Self-Portrait as his Donkey, Cornerstone in a Dead End and A Testing Spoon for a Melting Pot are precise and concise, and raise the issues and contemplations of Ben Dov regarding to the future of culture and the place of art in it. These works express anger and deep sorrow for a corrupted culture in an ailing society that is driven by money and capital. The mere action of placing a title next to each artwork conveys a loud statement. The titles animate the works and imbue them with meaning – Ben  Dov takes the “object” out of its designing context and  puts it in a wider cultural aspect.

The second part of the exhibition, in the inner space of the gallery, provides the answers to the questions and loud statements that are brought up in its first part. All the artworks in this space speak the same language: “for the tree of the field is man’s life”. This space emphasizes the Hebrew culture developed by Ben Dov for two decades, and its meaning to artwork; starting from the work Etz (Tree), with the letter Yod – the origin of all letters– in its center. The tree symbolizes our cultural existence – the human being as a tree, whose roots nurture him and elucidate his way, and were it not for these roots, his entity would disappear; through Sade (Field), a work in which its name is reflected in it and that demonstrates the growth of a wheat field as a symbol of the basic human existence, the wheat without which this basic existence collapses; Landscape Pattern (Olive), an artwork that takes a penetrating look at our physical existence –its real  top quality – and not the easy money that is the desire of so many in our current culture – but rather the great effort that is exerted over a long period of time, and that will bear fruit and yield true wealth for years; and Flower With No Purpose, an artwork that represents a flower field in its most basic form. The cut-out material, the non-material, represents our spiritual existence – a flower field that each person completes within his or her own imagination into a green field, dotted with red petals, fresh air, birds’ chirping – an endless open space of honorable existence in perfect harmony with nature.