Curator: Rotem Rozental
House of the Book, Brandeis Bardin Campus
November 12, 2017-February 4, 2018
Dan Levenson’s practice centers on the SKZ, as an academy of his own invention. In his studio, Levenson fabricated schoolroom furniture, visual experimentations, curriculum and creative guidelines. The SKZ is modelled in the spirit of modernist art schools of early twentieth century, and as such, the students are carefully trained in its strict style and visual perspective. This most recent iteration of the project exposes an empty classroom. Perhaps the students had just left for a break, perhaps they deserted it long ago. They have been practicing monochromes, we can see on their tables. The paintings are in different stages of decay. It is a frozen scene that invites the viewer, the visitor, to wander through an open rip in space and time.
When the State Art Academy Zurich (SKZ) was brought into the House of the Book, it didn’t just animate the main hall and reading pods. Transporting their workshop to the space–now serving as a temporary home–with their drawing horses, architectonic chairs and work tables, with their geometric perception of line, space and color, with their monochromes and meticulous methods, SKZ’s presence amplified the history of the House of the Book as a site for learning and worship. Designed by Sidney Eisenstat and inaugurated in 1973, House of the Book intersects futurism with concrete, brutalism with the great outdoors, Israeli culture with American landscapes. Over fifty years had passed since it was created as a massive rotunda of pedagogical engagement. Interestingly, what SKZ unveiled goes beyond the space’s historical commitment to Jewish religion, values and ideals. By their enigmatic presence, the SKZ transformed House of the Book to what may very well be the last known site of worship of modernism.
This site-specific installation responds to the legacy of the late Israeli sculptor, poet and thinker Ezra Orion, the subject of an exhibition and a series of programs at AJU. When Eisenstat conceived these geometric spaces, Orion was invested in sculptural experimentations in Israel’s desert and public spaces: erecting soaring cement sculptures, guiding fellow artists through the mountains of Katmandu, and collaborating with NASA to install a sculpture on Mars. His work, Levenson writes, exemplifies modernism’s earnest hopes for the future. At AJU’s Familian Campus, the Platt and Borstein Galleries became a temporary home of a different kind: which houses selected parts of Orion’s extensive archive, as part of an exhibition curated and organized with Udi Edelman (Curator, Center for Digital Art, Israel – Director, Institute for Public Presence), which attempts to explore his logic of action.
Here, at Brandeis-Bardin, Levenson examines the nuanced complexities of Orion’s viewpoint, its complicated relationships with space, vision and bodily experience, positioning it between local and international meeting points, between concrete and wood, between the forces of nature and the decaying, inevitably mortal, qualities of matter.
Text: Rotem Rozental, Curator
Photographs: Dan Levenson