Restless and inventive, Zigi Ben-Haim’s recent paintings and sculptures engage the multiple, contradictory character that marks our fundamental cultural condition today. A major conundrum of modern life has manifested itself as the simultaneous opposition and identity of proximity and distance. In our media-saturated age, the familiar face on the television screen provides the comforting nearness of a human relationship, but at the same time that nearness is compromised by the distance imposed by the impenetrable screen through which we see it. Thousands of years of human experience in determining the near and the far, the personal and the public, are confounded in an instant.
Sorting through the many layers of resonant images, language, and the whole network of meaning in which we all live, Ben-Haim repeats several personally and symbolically significant schemata – the leaf, the oval, the brick, and the ant – across rows of aluminum tiles or plaques, hung together in grids. Here and there other photo-silkscreen images, abstract forms and fragments of language serve to reconnect these almost timeless, archetypal objects to the ebb and flow of contemporary life. The repetitive, manufactured aura of the metal rectangles is gently but insistently contrasted with the personal, handmade aesthetic of their painted imagery. Again, Ben-Haim locates the contradictory nexus between the anonymity of mass production and the everyday familiarity of the objects so produced, calling us to a new awareness of the conditions of contemporary experience.
Ben-Haim’s sculptures explore some of the same graphic, archetypal imagery, again in flattened planes of aluminum, but here welded into self-supporting, almost figurative presences. Zigi began this most recent series of work in the aftermath of September 11, inspired by the enormity of the reconstruction project. It is almost as though from the wildly heterogenous rubble of the twin towers, he has pulled any number of recognizable objects and images, assembling them into a new, erect being – an image of the will to continue, to pick up what he can to imaginatively press on, as indomitable as the ants who fascinate him.