"My drawings inspire and do not offer explanation. They resolve nothing. They place us just as music does, in the ambiguous world of the indeterminate." Odilon Redon, 1909
Tova Beck-Friedman’s recent exhibition consists of a grouping of freestanding sculptures as well as large prints of digital photographic composites.
While not a figurative artist in the literal sense of the word, her work has always referenced the figure. In a mixture of figural and abstract her work is rich in metaphors and choreographed in rhythmic groups. The work in this exhibition represents a segment in her ongoing exploration of memory through myth.
As in a solemn procession, five tall plinths of gray concrete stand in a staggered row. On top of each rests a small black shape that resembles the human head or perhaps an egg. Titled simply Heads, they pay homage in part to Brancusi’s sculptures and in part to surrealistic elements in Jean Cocteau’s films.
Beck-Friedman uses photography and sculpture as mediums of expression. Her sculptures are made of Ferro-cement and clay whereas her prints are the result of digitally transformed and rearranged photographic images. Deriving imagery from the landscape she looks for the mythological elements embedded in ancient sites. The source for her latest images were photographs taken on a recent trip to Jordan to the ancient Roman city of Jarash (a.k.a. Philadelphia) and the Nabatean city of Petra. Not only is the artist drawn to these site for their history, but for Beck-Friedman, born and raised in Israel, crossing the border is a physical as well as conceptual statement.
Alternating between sculpture and photography, she deals with both the physical and implied spaces. Whereas sculpture occupies a concrete domain, photography brings to the foreground another aspect of the creative cognition. Though being twice removed, once by the camera and then again via digital imaging, Beck-Friedman’s images remain within the realm of photographic representation. But while photographic images usurp reality, these composite photographs are more akin to collage or photomontage --- a process the artist uses to subvert reality.
Drawing on ambivalence Beck-Friedman juxtaposes disparate elements. In a large triptych titled lament, women clad in black climb the stairs atop an ancient site. Frozen in time, the viewer is unsure of their intent. It is this theatrical ambiguity that renders the image powerful and draws us to it. Moving back and forth between physical sculpture and perceived space as depicted in the print transforms this installation into eloquent poetry.