Orit Raff

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

May 9 - June 22, 2002

The Julie Saul Gallery is pleased to announce our second solo exhibition of new work by Orit Raff. Entitled "The Pot Calling the Kettle Black", the show consists of three bodies of work. The first "Nine Promises", (close-ups of nine bars of soap) addresses the highly-charged meaning carried by the written word "Honey", "Caress", "Dove", "Ahava" (Hebrew for love), - and the interrelations between user and object (the former injecting the latter with traces of the human body). Through the photographic act, Raff sets out to explore the conscious and unconscious choices made by a group of women from a distinct socio-economic status, all of whom engage in acts of cleansing and purification.

In the second series the preoccupation with the concept of present/absent is discernible in the set of glove images- the most expressive, vivid group in the show. The hands are absent from the frame, yet their presence is clearly felt. This sense is reinforced by the signs of dirt remaining after the act of cleansing. The preoccupation with notions of cleanliness and dirt is essential to Raffs oeuvre. Raffs artistic practice revolves around a profound preoccupation with the "present-absent". This holds true for her current and previous shows, such as her 1998 body of photographs, which addressed the absence/presence of couplehood. Also characterized by monochromatic color, these were close-up shots that perpetuated the remnants of a couples intimate relationship: hair left in the bathtub, body marks on the towel, the state of the toilet bowl, water drops on the sink, etc.

The final set of photographs depicting burnt pots which are clearly exhausted by attempts to conceal the signs of scorching. The camera doesnt lie - it presents reality as it is, thus opening up a discussion concerning our need for cleansing versus the signs we leave behind. The photographs call into question the interrelations with our physical surroundings, the effect we have on all those objects with which we interact, and the implications of our very being in their proximity.

The oscillation between two realms of artistic expression, the conceptual and the abstract, allows the viewer a glimpse into a universe that generally remains invisible; a world rendered present by expanding the boundaries of the medium. It is a marginal world that is given centerstage, eliciting questions concerning human nature and life. Raff examines our need for acts of purification, obsessive physical cleansing, as well as their results, raising a myriad of questions: Are the signs indeed imperceptible? Is the source of the human need for cleanness ultimately a preoccupation with personal and general safeness, and with ensuring our physical well being? Is all this, in fact, associated with the middle class and its long tradition of spring-cleaning? Judging by the evidence presented to us, the result is rather disappointing. There can be no total concealment or elimination of dirt. A wide range of signs remains, forming a substantial body of evidence.

Her photographs compel us to confront our reflection in the mirror. Raff is aware of the power of her subtle language and pristine technique to highlight aesthetic and theoretical dilemmas.

Raff studied at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, and in 2002 will receive her MFA from Bard College. She will have a major (second) exhibition at the Ramat Gan Museum in Israel entitled "Hunt the Slipper" and will be included in a group exhibition at Artists Space entitled "Multitude" curated by Lauri Firstenberg during the fall of 2002. Her work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Haifa Museum of Modern Art, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the MIT Visual Arts Center, Boston, and the Progressive Corporation, Cleveland.

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