Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art
Mixed Media, 1100/550/110 cm, 2015.
First Set features a large bed of synthetic grass simulating a tennis court in a scale of 1:2. Somewhat like a carpet, the grass surface is slightly rolled at one end, making the tennis court a portable item that can be easily rolled up and transported. However, the surface of the ground is overgrown with vegetation – myriad offshoots that would render any attempt at conducting a match impossible. These offshoots, as synthetic as the field itself, lend it the equivocal look of a peaceful, well-regulated ecological garden on the one hand, and that of a deserted no man’s land on the other, where unruly weeds and wild vegetation have taken over.
The double meaning of the installation encompasses the contradictory implications of life and death. The wild vegetation points to a process of regeneration, growth and vitality, yet the unregulated pattern of the growth suggests downfall, ruin, and dereliction – whether at some point in the past or as an imminent eventuality. In this sense, First Set upholds a metaphoric vision of our present times, of a world of immediate supply and availability, fluid geographical borders, and the semblance of surplus and bounty meant to encourage compulsive consumption without end. Frank’s tennis field operates as a monument both to an obscure past and a futuristic, post-apocalyptic reality where the synthesized beauty of fake vegetation supplants organic growth. It is a place where the ephemeral and timeless reside side by side
Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art
Wood, Rubber, 900/650/20 cm, 2015.
Second Set consists of a multitude of ping pong rackets scattered across the exhibition space, their formation emulating clusters of fallen leaves in autumn. There are hundreds of them, all hand-made by the artist, and they are lying around motionless and passive, recalling the image of an ephemeral nature, of a stop on the passage of time. This autumnal tableau occupies a state of in-between, a transitory stage locked between the memory of a thing past and a future about to unfold. As with the two-sided rivalry of tennis, the game of professional ping pong also harbors a struggle for domination, which here too is converted into a material manipulation as exerted upon the object. Each of the many rackets scattered on the floor underwent a slight bending, which turned them from sports gear into fallen leaves – a brittle organism that succumbs to the cyclical laws of nature, and, when its time comes, withers and exfoliates.
However, the sheer multitude of rackets lends these objects a force of a different kind, such that accrues into a presence in space that defines a time and a place. This multitude is itself two-sided, highlighting both the individual handiwork put into each racket as a pièce unique while bringing to mind the endless repetition of a mass-produced object. The crisp aesthetics of computer animation, of a -3dimensional rendering where everything is possible – including a ping pong racket turned into an autumn leave – produces an elusive image that blends the real with the imaginary, the spiritual with the earthly. Wandering in this autumnal, and supposedly pastoral, scene of autumn leaves conveys a charged and melancholy emotional experience not without overtones of critique and irony.
Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art
Mixed Media, 60/240/200 cm, 2015.
Third Set presents a collection of baseball bats that seem to be floating in a row, one by one, in a large glass display. At the top end of each bat we perceive a blackened offshoot, a flourish resembling branches or roots that spring from the bat’s head, but are carved, in fact, in the very wood of the bat. The glass case that contain them recall a museal display of rare exemplars salvaged form a ravaged zone; it is scientific in character, referencing the display mode of science and ethnography museums. The unique carving at each head preserves the trace of a thicket consumed by fire. Now, at its post-traumatic stage, it commemorates the indomitable balance of power in nature.
The wood carving undertaken by the artist is applied to an existing object – a readymade – to the effect of a hybrid object that harbors an array of conflicts and inner contradictions. The baseball bat, originally the product of mass production, seeks to reclaim its primary, organic properties, to grow branches once more and return to the raw materiality of the wood. At the same time, as the familiar shape of the baseball bat remains largely intact, it maintains the various cultural connotations to a field sport so quintessentially American. Third Set operates the appropriation of a an emblematic item from popular American culture, an object that harbors the impact of the stroke for which it was made, which, nonetheless, attempts to grow from within the traces of a post-apocalyptic landscape. The resulting image assumes the poetic dimension of a lamentation over nature’s devastating power
n recent years, Tal Frank has mostly presented bodies of work composed of hyperrealistic, polished sculptures. She specialises in casts made of polymeric materials, which she expertly transforms into simulacra of a wide range of materials: paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, various fluids, bones and fur. Frank’s works combine characteristics of classical, naturalistic sculpture, which glorifies the mimesis of an idealizes reality; at the same time, she dialogues with postmodern art, applying her sculptural strategy to objects that are taken from the sphere of everyday life, and which often resemble ready-mades.
In contrast to most of her works, whose level of finish initially creates the illusion that the sculpted object is a perfect imitation of reality, the sculpture of the girl at the center of the installation Freestanding remains “unfinished.” The material’s pinkish color has not been camouflaged by an additional layer of paint that would have endowed it with the appearance of a perfect copy. This decision to leave the material unraveled and unfinished is unusual in the context of Frank’s highly polished works. In this manner, the artist chooses to announce that this is indeed a sculpture; by imperfectly representing reality, she seems to be delaying an impending disaster before it comes to pass.
Frank’s works always contain an element related to destruction, and clearly express her preoccupation with death. The connection between death and the perfect imitation of reality endows these works with a surreal quality that may appear either humorists or morbid; it highlights the preoccupation with vestiges, with abjection and with dysfunctional states. The installation’s title, “Freestanding,” relates to a form of sculpture that constitutes an independent entity as well as alludes to the source of the state of fear it captures. The fear of death, a recurrent motif in Frank’s work, is fused in this installation with parental anxieties. “Freestanding” may be interpreted as a metaphor for a mother’s fears concerning her daughter, who served as a model for the sculpture. In this nightmarish scene the little girl undergoes a trauma of some sort, and the liquid running down her body points to a hidden and violent transformative force. The decision to leave the sculpture “unfinished” is thus indicative, it seems, of the incompatibility between two types of creation – parenthood and art making. The sculpture’s imperfection symbolizes the desire to circumscribe anxiety within the limits of artistic representation, moments before it seeps into the real.