In the current solo exhibition “SWEEPING GLANCES: The Work of Zigi Ben-Haim” 16 artworks that give us a look into his concept of creation where he keeps on reinventing himself, while moving from one chapter to another, creating to his own drumbeat.
Looking at Ben-Haim’s art is like a journey into space that looks familiar but is full of surprises and traces from his travels and explorations. He celebrates the beauty of everyday life, from found materials in his neighborhood and contrasts and unites various natural and industrial materials from wood to aluminum, rock to steel, tree leaves to newsprints and concrete.
Equally adept as sculptor and painter, his two-dimensional works float in space. Lately he has exchanged the cold aluminum as his preferred ‘canvas’ with warm burlap for his painterly-collaged works, like in his work “No Exit.” He uses burlap and the printed words on them, which reminds him of the burlap sugar bags distributed in Israel during his childhood. He continues his journey of creating footprints of culture and nature, as seen through his prism of multicultural experience.
“The opposing forces in our living environment feed my work, “says Ben-Haim. “It’s like a second nature to my art. It manifests itself through the materials, colors, shapes, dimensions, etc, that I choose to use. Burlap is a warm and soft material, resembling a natural world as opposed to my works on aluminum, cold, hard and industrial presence. A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band and most of us live somewhere in the middle.”
Ben-Haim has stated that his work, especially paintings on aluminum—such as “Walking on Air” —address the current state of environmental affairs, which concerns humanity’s place in the universe. The large-scale, multi-layered works present nature as simultaneously fragmented and grand. Using aluminum panels, wire mesh, paint, and collage. Ben-Haim’s art shows his love for nature and worry about the environment, the tension that pit nature against culture. In an extraordinary way, he manages to bring contradictory images into harmony with each other, to create order from apparent disorder. The leaf as a sign of growth and nature’s renewal or a brick as a symbol of humanity-building culture carried by a mighty ant are poetic.
“The essence of my work lies in balancing the tension between survival and extinction. The abstract forms I utilize are drawn from both the natural and industrial/cultural world. Materialized in my work, each world adopts the other; they collide and coincide with each other to form a third ‘being-existence’ that reflects the idea of survival and projects the energy of life,” says Ben-Haim.
Ben-Haim’s multi-layered, cultural background inspires his art. He fled from Baghdad via Iran to Israel where he grew up, studied Art in California and now shares his time between New York and Tel Aviv. His works exist somewhere between abstraction and symbolism. Zigi Ben-Haim’s vision shows a path to reconcile his work for the engaged viewer – thus this great visual artist becomes a visionary poet.
“SWEEPING GLANCES: The Work of Zigi Ben-Haim” on view through April 28th at the Hezi Cohen Gallery
By Susanne Lingemann