Gow Langsford Gallery are pleased to present the first solo exhibition in New Zealand by Israeli artist Michal Rovner. Rovner’s work has been exhibited extensively internationally, including her 2002 mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the highly acclaimed exhibition at the Israeli Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. These exhibitions have firmly established Rovner as one of the most important contemporary artists working today.
Born in Israel in 1957, Rovner studied photography and art at the Tel-Aviv University and went on to establish Tel-Aviv’s Camera Obsura Art School, specialising in photography, video, cinema and computer art. Rovner’s atmospheric and haunting works blur the boundaries of cinema and photography, often playing on the chance happenings that occur when working with these mediums.
Based in New York City since 1988, Rovner still focuses her concerns on the border crossings between Israeli and Palestinian territories. Ghostly and anonymous figures act out issues of aggression and reconciliation, as well as the sense of loss and survival, that are apparent in war zones. However, Rovner’s work typically removes itself from holding any overtly political stances, posing questions rather than answering them.
Rovner says of her work, “Many people come to my shows thinking that, as a Hebrew artist, my work is all about the Holocaust. I don’t talk about the Holocaust, though, I talk of human beings, of the frailness of life. Of course the awareness of being fragile is more evident if you grew up in Israel rather than in Belgium…There you learn to survive life through life. The art of survival, though, is an issue for each one of us, each of us needs to contrast the forces that menace our lives. It can be a mental, physical, spiritual problem, it doesn’t matter: it concerns all of us. I offer my experience. I am a witness.” (Alessandra Mammi, On the borders of video, L’Espresso, Rome, 27 February 2003, pp 112-113)
Imagery is often sourced by Rovner herself visiting war zones, such as the Gulf war in 1991, where a series of Polaroids were taken, then rephotographed in her studio, enlarged and altered. One work resulting from this series shows American troops herding captured Iraqis single-file across the desert, while another work multiplies this image to create row upon row of desert prisoners illuminated around the room, encompassing the viewer.
This exhibition at Gow Langsford Gallery encompasses a selection of Rovner’s work in video and film, as well as on paper and canvas. DVD projections illuminate graphite slabs, posing as alternate landscapes for her migrating subjects to move across. These mesmerising formations and movements could be attributed to Rovner’s formal training as a dancer, and equally also to the time she spent in compulsory service in the Israeli military. Her figures also at times configure what resembles ancient text and symbols. “Sometimes I feel like a scientist looking at some specimen through a microscope,” says Rovner. “I’m fascinated by codes, systems of communication, the elements that connect us as human beings.” (Steven Vincent, Michal Rovner, Art + Auction, October 2003, p 36)
Rovner's work is in many permanent collections worldwide including: the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museo d'arte contemporanea Roma; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Tel Aviv Museum, Israel, among others.