The instantly recognizable rock sculptures of Arik Levy are shown alongside his lesser known work in a new exhibition at Paris' Passge de Retz gallery. In an exclusive interview, the artist explains why Nothing is Quite as it Seems.
In the courtyard entrance to Arik Levy’s latest exhibition at Paris’ Passge de Retz gallery is one of his latest works, the giant rusted sculpture CraterCorten, 2012. Inside, not only are there several of Levy’s signature reflective rock sculptures but also paintings, photographs, video installations and furniture. “Someone came in and asked how many artists are in the show,” quips Levy of his varied oeuvre that even his most passionate collectors might not be aware of. “I said, ‘many but they’re all in me.’”
Though not a retrospective (“I would need another 3,000 square meters!”), ‘Nothing is Quite as it Seems’ traces Levy’s multi-disciplined work since his first sculpture exhibition in Tel Aviv in 1988. Conceived to showcase all the aspects of the Israel-born, Paris-based artist’s career, the Paris show highlights the relationship between Levy’s well-known sculpture and lighting installations and his lesser known paintings and photography.
Yet more of Levy’s little known projects are presented in a new book dedicated to his work, ‘Out There’, which includes a number of private commissions that have never been seen in public. “I wanted to connect people to my work,” he explains simply of both the book and the exhibition.
Most striking of the conversation that takes place between the new pieces with older ones is the evolution of the rock which in Levy’s recent “mineralised paintings” appears as faceted reinterpretation of the digital pixel. Shown alongside Levy’s other work, the facet and how it reflects different visions becomes the central theme of the exhibition. Or is it? ‘Nothing is Quite as it Seems’ is designed by Levy to be exactly that.
‘Nothing is Quite as it Seems’
Passge de Retz gallery, Paris
Entrance: 12 Euros
Out There by Arik Levy
Buy online: http://www.colette.fr/#/eshop/article/31143945/out-there-arik-levy/47/
Your new exhibition includes some of your early work as well as your most recent creations. Is it a retrospective?
It’s not a retrospective but is more of a channel. I wanted to open a channel so that people could walk into my world and walk out with new things that they have not seen before. But there is a historical part. It’s natural to put the things that people saw in the past, which connect with the things I’m doing now. It’s evolution.
The show retraces your creative path since 1986 – how would you characterise the evolution of your work?
1986 was my first sculpture show, which is in my new book. Finding those pictures brought me to the understanding that I did a long walk around to get the same point but which is not on the same level. It’s a point of powerful neutrality. There are no bubbles and no fat in my work, it’s just the true reality of how I feel and what I do. I guess this walk around was important.
Why call it, “Nothing is quite as it seems”?
Because that’s exactly what it is. It’s not exactly what you think it is. In every work there is the opportunity to have a personal interpretation. What I’m interested in is not the finality of the piece but what it makes you feel and see. Also, it relates to my position as to what people think of me. Some people know I make lighting, some people think I only make tables and chairs and some other people think I only make paintings. It’s the same with people, who are not exactly what they seem to be.
Your signature rock shapes can also be found in your unusually pixelated photographs and in the shapes of the canvases of your wall paintings. What does the faceted shape mean to you?
Each facet has its own origin and its own direction where it grows, where it comes from. They compose themselves in a non-modular way; it’s not a repetition of a fractile. It’s a different non-regular mathematics. In the next generation of this, they will grow like the sculptures are growing.
Monumental sculptures are part of your latest work. What attracts you to this oversized scale?
It sucks you in visually. The first big one I installed was about four years ago. The perverted situation of private commissions is that it gives me the opportunity to create something unique and great but it goes into a place that no one will see. Which is why the book is so important so that people can see that work.
This is a happiness kit. Every time you have that in your hand, first there is anticipation: will it or will it not take fire? We wait. Then when it starts and everyone is happy. This was projected in the Centre Pompidou for a long time and when I watched the viewers I could see them sitting with smiles which would end when the sparkle is extinguished. And then it would start again and they would smile again. I say happiness but it is made out of micro explosions. Happiness and explosions is something which is correlating or contracting. And if you explode sexually, you have pleasure. This is about how our social codes behave.
Mineralised Paintings, 2012
The pixel here is not the perfect geometry of a square that takes you away from what the image is. This is a facet, a non perfect geometry, each one is different. It’s about the process of our eye and how the way we look the world gets mineralised. Mineralization means evolution but it also means something historical. What I do is take a photo which I then transform and print on wood because the presence of the wood is important. It becomes contemporary marquetry. Then I paint over parts, painting over an existing history or an existing space. The closer you get the less you see but the more you see of what it is.
These are funny because with the first one I did, I put it on a rotating wheel to ease the work of the photographer because it’s 200kg and you don’t want to move it every two minutes. When I put it there and turned it, I eliminated the physical weight but not the emotional value in the weight of what the marble is. It’s made out of one piece and is carved in Cararra. It’s a functional sculpture.
Temporarily Table, 2008
It talks about temporary but it’s the most permanent thing in the world. Who didn’t have a table like this as a student?
LogSlice Painting, 2010
This changes the gravity of the space. Gravity is vertical as we are standing but when I put this work which is done horizontally on the wall, then we can say that gravity goes this way because it flows in this direction and influences the energy of the space. We are conditioned.
Chemical Plates, 2012
This is another important piece. It’s called a XX plate. I take molecules and transform them by writing with them. Every part of the word becomes a chemical substance. I take expressions and words from our everyday life and turn them into materials. I write the geometry for a new molecular structure for our world because the world is about people not about objects.
Rock Abstract, 2012
The more light you put on this the more shadows you create. What I would like to do is draw the shadows and take the structure away but leave the trace of the object.