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Art review: Izhar Patkin at Shoshana Wayne

February 2, 2012 |  7:00 pm

Izhar Patkin, "The Dead are Here"
“The Dead are Here,” at Shoshana Wayne, presents work from a series by Izhar Patkin that has a beautiful, provocative back story, one with more staying power than the work itself. The centerpiece of the show is a roofless room (29 x 22 feet) whose interior walls are draped with painted tulle from their upper edge nearly to the floor 14 feet below. The theatricality of the space makes a strong first impression. One steps from the plain and practical exterior (like the backside of a stage set) into an evanescent realm, more vivid than life but elusive. The delicate, translucent fabric falls in soft pleats, the images painted upon them repeating but resisting firm definition: trees in radiant pink blossom; cemetery headstones receding in rows; a man, woman and a few dogs resting at the base of some statues. The effect is dreamlike, momentarily startling. Its magic gradually fades.

The installation is one of several veiled rooms that Patkin, Israeli-born and based in New York, has made in response to the writings of Kashmiri American poet Agha Shahid Ali. They met in 1999, brought together by a commission from a publisher. Two years later, Ali died of brain cancer, having composed aloud his final poem, “The Veiled Suite.” Its allusions to vision, truth, love and illusion are rich, as are Patkin’s references (discussed in a catalog) to the mystical Jewish notion of a “cosmic curtain” drawn around human experience. But little of this depth infuses the work itself, a beautiful but fleeting spectacle.

-- Leah Ollman

Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-7535, through Feb. 18. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Image: Izhar Patkin, "The Dead are Here." From Shoshana Wayne Gallery and Izhar Patkin, photo by Gene Ogami.