Judah Leib Gordon, on the other hand (another Judah engaged with language – it could be that this name, comprising the Hebrew letter of YHWH, Jehovah, points to a future of meticulousness to the edges of language), published in 1876 The Point on Top of the Yod, the tale of Bat-Shua, married to a brilliant Talmid Chacham (“wise scholar), Hillel, who after failing to support the family, leaves his wife to take care of their abode and children on her own, as he travels around Europe and tries to provide for them. When it emerges that he has deserted his family, Bat-Shua has a letter delivered for him, requesting money for their children, only to be dealt a Get, Jewish divorce certificate. When she turns to the town’s rabbi, the latter revokes the document, as Hillel’s name is written without the letter yod. Bat-Shua remains agunah, chained to her marriage – “I was well-nigh in all wellness, along with my children, living like a woman of leisure – but a tittle of yod proved my demise.”
Kotzo (the tittle of), from the stem Ketz (end), describing an ultimate end, an awakening or a sense of “having it up to here”, things that come in a blink of an eye. Like a Kotz, thorn, reaching a dead-end. It is therefore held in anxiety and piety; black over white, being and nothingness. As we can learn from Judah Leib Gordon and Rab Judah.
Hodo (the edge of), on the other hand, from the stem Had (sharp) – which describes precision and meticulous attention to details, whether in matter, like the sharpness of the blade, or in spirit, as Hida, riddle (marked by the sharpness of mind and tongue); and it is this riddle, after all, that forces us to pursue a trend of thought in order to reach the answer.
Facing one of Ben Dov’s works, we face a riddle, a figment of the artist’s imagination, who employs ample personal images and solecisms etched in the palace of his mind. But even if the answer may well be beyond our grasp, and though not written on the other side of the canvas, it is within our power to solve the riddle, by means of research and open-mindedness.
Ben Dov therefore presents in this exhibition a cross-section from the palace of his mind, a multi-work arrangement titled Study. The installation features furniture (cabinets, a table and a bench) painted grey, carrying a galore of sculptures, paintings, objects, memorabilia and religious and wisdom books placed side by side. Each work is displayed in association with the ones next to it, creating stories of sorts, which welcome the viewer to delve in and explore them. At the heart of every such story there exists an idea that hints at the essence of the works in this exhibition.
This playful undertaking, of rendering an abstract tale recounted with objects into a clear, condensed idea, traces Ben Dov’s associative continuum in the creative process.
The yods making up Ben Dov’s world feature in many of his works, at times highlighted, at other times concealed, but forever present, a token of his adherence to the little details and subtle stories that interweave through his works like a common thread. Thus he explores the world, by edging its edges and taking the edge of its thorny tittles.
The multi-faceted associativity of his works allows alternation from one observer to another. Some may understand the riddles, hopefully solving them, while others may be meticulous down to the edge of the yod in order to expose the artist’s riddle and try too to see the world in yod letters.
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