Pace Gallery presents Evolution—a solo show dedicated to the work of pioneering artist Michal Rovner—in New York following its celebrated exhibition in Palo Alto earlier this year.
Evolution features videos and prints that mark a return to Rovner’s unique, abstracted language. The exhibition in New York includes many of the highlights from the Palo Alto iteration, as well as new works and a major video installation.
Rovner’s last exhibition at Pace in New York in 2016, Night, featured images of jackals from encounters in dark fields. Her encounters with darkness generate nocturnal images, capturing moments that are immersed in shadows. The works reverberate an unfamiliar dimension, a sense of fear and alertness, primal powers and the night within us. A central part of Evolution is a powerful video work Nilus (2018)—a nocturnal silhouette of a jackal, stretched across two screens, as across two pages of a book, whose space is filled with dense lines of miniature human figures. The unique nocturnal light, something in the shape of the vigilant animal, possibly exposed to danger, the glimmer of its hollow eyes in which human figures appear occasionally to be reflected – all of these elements along with the dense lines of the flickering “text,” create a disturbing feeling that something is amiss, perhaps the creature is artificial, maybe a cloned jackal, maybe a hybrid. Duality and duplication recur across several aspects of this work, and are especially prominent in the double movement: the sporadic movement of the jackal, and the repetitive movement of the human figures, which appear to be marking themselves, or signaling, or calling out for help.
In her return to her language of abstraction, which consists of duplicated patterns of human movements, Rovner has intensified this language. The human figures have lost basic contours, to the point that their humanity is sometimes hard to identify; gone are the landscapes in which the figures move; the movement itself, which apparently repeats itself, has become more wild; the lines, structures and patterns change more rapidly; florescent-like red flashes appear, that call to mind the emergency, danger and alarm lights that permeate our world.
Across the works in the exhibition, Rovner presents us with the evolution of these hieroglyphic-like, narrative-less “texts.” At first they are much more representative, clearer, relatively stable; then they become more rapid, fleeting, hard to grasp, ambiguous, alluding to the intensity and communication overload of a reality that allows us to see everything, from the electronic innards of a computer to brain synapses, a reality of barcodes, control panels, matrix charts, microchips, and the like. While the lines of text still invariably feature human figures, human signs and gestures; reading them is becoming harder and harder. In the end, only the writing remains, as a signifier without the signified, striving to be seen, to sparkle, flash, stand out, as if the ultimate representation of human consciousness is signaling for help.
Michal Rovner (b. 1957, Israel) is known for her multimedia practice of drawing, printmaking, video, sculpture, and installation. Her work has and continues to define a new and evocative language of abstraction, broadly addressing themes of history, humanity and time. While generally avoiding specific issues or events, Rovner’s work shifts between the poetic and the political, and between current time and historical memory, raising questions of identity, dislocation, and the fragility of human existence. She records and erases visual information, obscuring specifics of time and place through gestural, abstract qualities and creating works with universal threads.