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These sculptures require you to walk around them. To experience them from all sides, not only to see the artwork itself, but to experience the nature around you all over again — interpreted in faceted form. Nature envelops you from all sides. The work therefore changes season to season, inspires wonder because of its own beauty and pulls the world just a little closer as if to have art envelop you.
D, Art historian, curator, and consultant. Now transmuted, we swiftly escape, as Nature escapes; We are nature—long have we been absent, but now we return; We become plants, leaves, foliage, roots, bark; We are bedded in the ground—we are rocks; We are oaks—we grow in the openings side by side; We browse—we are two among the wild herds, spontaneous as any; …We have voided all but freedom, and all but our own joy.
His works in metal, wood, drawing, and painting derive inspiration in form and content from nature. The outdoor works cohere with their surroundings while drawing attention to their status as made things, beautiful incursions wrought from raw materials drawn from the earth and transformed. They evoke rocks, trees, monuments of triumphant past eras, resolutely owning the spaces they occupy.
His outdoor works are simultaneously site specific and universal in their language. They are resolutely here, in a particular place and time and also easily imagined anywhere and everywhere. He synthesizes past experience, bridging the worlds of art and design, blurring the distinctions between the purely aesthetic and the gorgeously practical. With a sophisticated knowledge of sculptural traditions, his formal language synthesizes iconic modernism and undeniably current expressions of 21st-century sleekness and complexity.
Levy monumentalizes the organic forms of Brancusi or Arp, extending the biomorphic idea to create large scale works that address the viewer in ways that are equally cerebral and sensuous.
His sculptures, installed indoors or out, own the spaces they occupy.
They dance in space, thrust upward, explode off the wall, reminding the viewer that to experience sculpture is foremost a bodily experience rather than an optical one.
Optics are in play, however, particularly in the works that employ mirror-like surfaces that reflect the light, the landscape, the surroundings. Levy is a polymath, a hallmark of his work over the past twenty years, and enjoys experimenting with a variety of materials. Sometimes, the media are intentionally close to nature, resulting in a kind of union between form and content, particularly in his works made of wood. In the metal works, nature is at a remove, yet the sinuous forms and subtly complex compositions refer to the world we apprehend when we see trees, rocks, hills.
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Levy is like a scientist or a musician, constantly experimenting and exploring variations on a theme. Nature in its myriad forms is a fundamental source of ideas and inspiration, but so too are the possibilities of creativity itself. His extensive body of work suggests a resolute restlessness, a will to overcome the inherent constraints of time and space. Taken individually, the works entice the viewer into a suspended moment of discovery and direct engagement.
As a body of work, Levy proposes a universe created of continual exploration and unfolding, sequential experiences.
As he produces work, building on the past, his oeuvre presents a kind of archaeology of the creative mind governed by the immutable laws of nature. They embody the fundamental contradictions of stasis and dynamism, three-dimensional objects that poetically and defiantly celebrate the freedom and the joy of their creator. I do not look for a definition or need any as for myself… the system around us needs one as they are not as flexible as we are today.
My practice and research evolve around my different narratives and the worlds I am traveling within. I have started with art and presented my first outdoor sculpture in in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
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By that time, also considering the geographic location I was in, I did not see a way to survive by only practicing art. I needed other sources for my daily existence. Some people go to work in a bar or a restaurant but I chose to turn towards commerce and design and have them become my main sponsors, so as to give myself the time and space to practice my artwork.
And I am a very bad decorator. We seem to be looking at a universe rather than single isolated creations What exactly is the universe of Arik Levy? My body of work is quite big, but only part of it is exhibited or well known… I work with one definition that wraps many aspects together and my motors are divers: I observe a lot and react to what I see at multiple levels.
I research at once social codes, psychotherapy and science in relation to nature and super nature… I look way forward, and way backwards, trying to identify the thin connecting lines among these worlds. Having said that, I am not really sure that I can put my finger on one spot, but rather on a multiple network of uncontrolled muscles.
How do you manage the continual back and forth flow between the different worlds of design production and limited editions, between function and non-function within your artistic production? I have also been working in the world of contemporary dance for the past 20 years creating stage installations… I am one, but multi-faceted… All this is shaped to diffract, like a light would flicker on a multi-faceted prism. I jump from one project to another, from one concept to multiple ideas and realizations.
Each and every one of these universes contains a large number of rules and codes where art, in its pure creation phase, has the most freedom of the mind.
Nothing is actually ever like what it seems. At the same time all these practices enrich one another, as it can be seen historically since forever. Also, one should not mix the design thinking and the tools. What does design represent to you? What does it mean to you? Are you still inspired by the idea that design is there to bring better quality to our everyday life? I am passionate about design and its possibilities, its impact on society and on everyday life.
The world population is getting older and the average age in 8 years will be over 50 or more. This cannot be ignored anymore and a change has to take place. As a designer I use all the necessary tools to solve issues and create solutions.
In your opinion, should a design object be available for mass consumption through unlimited production or rather exist in a defined number of editions? All the answers are good. Every product has its reality, necessity, as well as life span.
Some are made for the big distribution and others are not. This issue is normally discussed at the beginning of the design process. In some situations an edition is born of experimentation and a larger audience product is born from an edition.
They all have a strategic and economical reason to be. What does art represent to you? Total freedom of expression, a virtual and physical place where I can use any tool, feeling, excuse, or impulse to express what I feel. A possibility to look back inside… and think.
A way of life, a necessity. A place with more oxygen and a personal problem-solver. What are your thoughts? What can you say in art that you cannot express in design? In art I can just go where I want and do not have to relate to any briefs or constraints apart from the ones I give to myself. Also, I do not have to justify and explain: I can express every part of me, or select a new inverted gravity force and displace it.
It is like another space What did your Japanese experience bring to your approach to design? It has influenced me as a whole, not only in art or design.
I think the biggest influences were the power of silence, simplicity and precision, honesty and the endless admiration and respect for nature and its abilities. What about your Swiss experience? It was a great thing as I was looking for a place where I could study in English, since I could not speak French. I have done 98, Km on the train, woken up at 5: Interesting that you went to Switzerland and ended up in an American school there… Switzerland was a choice I made following my heart at that time… the school was a fresh European branch of a US University, so English was an option.
Besides the fact that, like I said, I did not speak French at that time, the Anglo-Saxon mentality is more similar to mine. Furthermore all classes were experimental as it was a school with a new agenda and no inherited planning. So we were experimenting a lot. Why did you choose to live in France?
Then in Aprilwith my life partner, we decided to move to France as it was more bubbling and I was interested in the possibilities this place offered in regards to art, dance, design and culture in general. What did you do when you first got there? In France I first made contacts in the design world and then started as a teacher in a design school… which also solved all my legal paper issues that was great!
I did not know anyone in France apart from one friend from Tel Aviv, I did not speak French and it was not easy to integrate.
I decided to start to speak French the way I could and very quickly I realized that only other foreigners understood me. But things evolved fast and I worked a lot in the international landscape. What was the first piece you produced? My first art piece I cannot remember, since it was a very long time ago.
Probably the sculpture I made for the group exhibition in in Israel… I was so busy creating life and survival that it took all my energy. What was the first design company you had your first collaboration with? Right after school I worked with Seiko Epson Inc.
This experience enriched my spectrum of knowledge. The exhibition showed many light concepts and light sculptures. After that many collaborations have started. What are your design references? My reference is science more than anything else… I do not have a figure that I follow or a mentor that influenced me.
I do appreciate many designers that have been paving the road for my generation and brought design to its multiple aspects and to what is happening today. Design is highly depending and directly influenced by economics. The speed at which all is moving today does not leave much space for timeless products beside the classics.
I think this is a problem created by the industry and I try to act against it. With which contemporary artists do you feel a close affinity?
At this point I started to get a strong connection to sculpture and paintings But so many others influence me on a daily basis… I am so exposed all the time and I think we are all influenced one way or the other. What is important is what comes out of my heart and mind, the personal interpretation in itself. Craters and rocks appear frequently in your work, why? What do these objects mean to you?
It started one day from the most simple action of sculpting… I was alone at the studio during the weekend and I was spending time in the workshop doing things… At one point I took some blocks of foam and started sanding them down. I was not quite thinking, but just doing and I do not really know what was the inspiration either… at the beginning I could not figure out when to stop or continue: It had its proportions and qualities, balance, beauty and absence.
Very quickly I understood that these pieces are about what is missing, what I have taken off, Absence.
But it was not even close to a real rock. The first sketch models were black and slowly I moved on to metal and stainless steel that brought in the reflections and constructed a deconstructed image… it was all about its reflection again and the polarity of the piece.
The second important change was when, inI was commissioned by Jacqueline Frydman to create a piece for the front courtyard of Passage de Retz in Paris. I changed scale and the piece got big just like Alice in Wonderland after she eats the biscuit. Not long after that, came a second commission, from French collectors Nicolas Libert and Emmanuel Renoird, to create a piece for their park. This was a big step up to verticality for the piece got to be 6m tall.
At that point, at the end of the installation which was an experience in itself I got the chance to see the real impact of these works. Frydman, Libert and Renoird, as well as other collectors who followed, all turned out to be extremely important in the development of my work. This imperfect geometry and the effects my Rock creates, the discovery of a new work from every angle… the influence of the seasons and the light during the day, make the sculpture transform every second thanks to its morphology.
When did you begin your series of Rock sculptures? Do you know the work of Chinese artist Zhang Wang, who is well known for his stainless steel rocks, which are exact replicas of scholar rocks?
I do and I like it very much… but it stands on the opposite side of my work and reasoning; what makes it interesting is that they both carry the same name.
I hope one day we can exhibit together and juxtapose our respective works. What I make is not a reproduction of nature: A new genetic code, a new man-made nature perhaps. Your Rocks are very stylized… Does this signify that it is the machine, the computer that produces nature?
Are you talking about post-human nature or a super-nature artificially generated? I think some of the post-human nature will be super-nature artificially generated if it is not already now the case.When You Can't Let Go - The R Spot Episode 13
How do you produce your Rocks? What is their origin and their story? When I create a location-specific sculpture it is connected to the location and its characteristics: The proportion and directions of facets are an issue and I first sketch and look for the right proportion and feeling within the piece… it can be very detailed in number of facets or rounded, bulky etc.
These decisions are taken along the way until a balance is created. I then often run it with 3D software, send the model to a 3D print to make sure all is correct and right.
Are you considering those prints as pieces? Have you ever shown them? Yes I do see them as pieces, or at least the ones that I print with this objective… the others are equivalent to a work model or to sketches.
But they do carry the same energy of the final artwork. I did already show them and will show some again at the new exhibition in Passage de Retz opening Nov. Your Rocks are all made of reflective materials. Is this to harmonize and unite with the surrounding space and then make them disappear?
Yes, because they have a stealthy quality: It reveals the configuration of an image that may appear real until the moment we see its impossible construction. From that moment on, imperfections become the perfection of the piece. Almost like the standing man of Giacometti?
Sometimes your sculptures are of gigantic dimensions. What is your relationship to scale? Scale is an important issue that influences the work in its environment; it controls the experience created via the proportion to human, architectural and outdoor scale. I can work in all scales at the same time and the transition from micro to macro and back plays the role of time. I always imagine going into my work, travel in between the layers or be in a giant sculpture.
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