Scaramouche is pleased to present Out of Sight, the first New York solo exhibition by artist Guy Ben-Ari. The exhibition examines the condition of image consumption as mediated through digital technology. Presenting different positions of a hidden remote voyeur, the paintings address the experience of a digital screen as one that conveys a dissociative effect to its viewer.
Ben-Ari investigates the connection between psychoanalytic theory, Semiotics and the medium of painting. Following Jacques Lacan’s notion that “The word kills the thing” by fixing its meaning, he uses an illustrative approach to examine the way metaphors, when taken literally, become dysfunctional. Ben-Ari is interested in the implications of using painting, a medium that rejects literal interpretation, to analyze concepts that reject visual interpretation.
Out of Sight addresses the contemporary culture of remote and ubiquitous image consumption. Confronting reality through the mediation of the digital screen is an experience that has a dissociative effect – a mental process that induces a separation of our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and even our sense of identity. For example, the act of sitting in front of a screen can cause one to become less aware of their surroundings, and at the same time, they can develop a feeling of removal and indifference towards the traumatic events that they are presented with.
The exhibition consists of three large narrative paintings on canvas together with smaller non-figurative paintings on panels. The larger paintings depict a hidden observer peeping at a psychoanalytic session, a seminar lecture with the painting The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger projected for a class, a session of analysis through Skype, and a tragic act of protest from Israel’s social justice demonstrations as viewed remotely through a tablet device. In these paintings, both the viewer and the subject are removed observers. This state of global voyeurism is a symptom of the contemporary digital culture.
Each of the situations described includes a screen – a smartphone, laptop, tablet or projection. The smaller patterned paintings display segments and details from the large narrative works. Some present a subtle after-image of a lamp as a light source hidden behind the flat patterned surface, becoming a direct visual signifier: an ideogram of the digital screen. In doing so, Ben-Ari attempts to incorporate the digital screen into the lineage of painting.
Guy Ben-Ari (born 1984 in Tel-Aviv, Israel) lives and works in New York City. He is a 2012-13 artist-in-residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Residency. Ben-Ari received his MFA from Columbia University in 2011, and his BFA with honors from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem in 2009, where he received the Persser Award for Excellence in Painting. In 2008, Ben-Ari was selected for the Exchange Program for Merit Students to study painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London. Recent solo exhibitions include Vox Populi, Philadelphia, and Hamidrasha Gallery, Tel-Aviv. Ben-Ari’s work has been featured in exhibitions in New York City at 6–8 Months Project Space, Thierry Goldberg, NADA art fair with Artis, Fisher Landau Center for Art, and SculptureCenter.