A site-specific installation responding to works in the AJU collection, by LA-based, Israeli artist Orr Herz.
Artist talk: July 11, 7:30pm, Dr. Rotem Rozental in conversation with Orr Herz
In late 2018, Holocaust by Charles Schlein moved from the Familian Campus of American Jewish University in Bel Air, to Orr Herz’s studio in South L.A. It is a condensed sculpture, 34 inches high, which requires the viewer to circle around it: one side depicts a bearded face, eyes wide shut, and the other shows a clenched fist and a monstrous cat. For Herz, the gesture of the eyes that cannot engage with the viewer – the gaze we are denied – charts a possible journey of inward looking, of dwelling in a state of distraction.
In a world that prioritizes multi-tasking over singular focus, Herz’s work creates a space outlined by a desire to pull away from the endless stream of tasks, obligations, and pre-determined routes. With its distinct viewing angles, Holocaust is unwittingly possessed by the same forces of multi-tasking, of problematic work ethics, of overachieving, encompassing and performing three-in-one.
The undetermined gaze holds the potential to detach from informed looking and engage in a formalist exploration of matter. In recent years, Herz has been invested in articulating a visual language that removes objects from their functionality and positions them as elements of visual speech. To paraphrase Heidegger’s understanding of the space formed by the work of art, Herz separates objects from their emergence as “equipment,” dividing from their usefulness and availability, or readability, revealing elements of their essence. Ready-made materials are joined by glazed, vibrant ceramics, drawings, prints, and words, to coalesce and shape a glance into an alternate experience of the everyday: expanding moments that break from the highway of existence into a sustained state of amused, self-aware being. Herz is seeking unexpected triggers for his growing lexicon of visual gestures and idioms; in Holocaust he found an unexpected ground, or basis, for his work.
In the space of The Project Room, Holocaust is greeted by soft winds, blowing from fans suspended in metal contraptions. They are trapped, locked into an endless state of hovering. One fan faces down upon a soccer ball. Another is pointed directly at the shut eyes of the sculpture. As David Muenzer has observed, while the drawings Herz creates using the software Illustrator shape a virtual vectored space devoid of alterations, his sculptural installations perpetuate traces of changes made to the objects. The cables, switches, extension chords, all become part of the corporeal, three-dimensional drawing that is the space, which traverses lines with the curves and twists of mechanical machinery. In this way, the connections between the objects in the space reflect their shared dwelling, their being together. For Herz, such opportunities for creating conversations between familiar objects are immediately subverted by a double trajectory: a detachment from day-to-day functionality that is simultaneously maintained in the form of their function.
And then, we meet Marvin, who is trying to find something, but he’s not quite sure what he forgot. In this children’s book, a first for Herz, Marvin’s universe is spread out as a disorganized array of useful objects, vectors and forgotten tasks that cannot be completed. We follow Marvin as he desperately tries to focus and remember what he needs to bring to his weekly soccer practice. He moves between passports, memories, animals, his trains of thought constantly steering him away from his purpose. By the end of Marvin Lost His Thoughts he realizes “it’s okay for thoughts to be interrupted because it lets new ones in.”
The exhibition space is imbued with Marvin’s forgetfulness, with the forces of interruptions and distractions that let “new ones in.” These are further reflected in the bats hanging from the ceiling and the drawings of flies on the wall, as well as the abstract ceramic objects that explore the possibility of creating movement through matter, gesturing towards Holocaust and its material presence. Seen together, the elements in this environment express an expanded formalist language of disruptions, and a playful tendency toward uni-tasking.
 For more, see Martin Heidegger, “On the Origin of the Work of Art,” Basic Writings, 1st Harper Perennial Modern Thought Edition, edited by David Farrell Krell (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2008), 143-212.
 David Muenzer, “What Was I Thinking,” Exhibition Text, published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name, shown at Adjunct Positions, March 17-April 28, 2018. http://adjunctpositions.org/archive.html