Stepping into “As Above, So Below,” Reuven Israel’s new show at Shulamit Nazarian in Los Angeles, is to experience a disorienting Alice Through the Looking Glass moment. Something about the playful candy colors and textural contrasts feels trippy and otherworldly. In notes that accompany the show’s catalog, Israel expresses a keen desire to escape the bounds of literalism in favor of “a space for fantasy, for imagination.” On the evidence of this mind-expanding show he’s succeeded. There’s a lovely, elegant composition and poise on view, apparent in the way the foot and head of his sculptures are connected by a slender copper rod. The whole effect is surreal, seductive, and slyly sexual: you want to run your hand over the polished curves.
Although Israel is influenced by pop art, there’s a touch of Kandinsky in his work here. Color and form are paramount, but everything is so expertly crafted, so pristine and unblemished, that you might reasonably wonder if you are looking at high tech components fresh off the production line. It’s a touch futuristic, as if Elon Musk has hooked up with Philip K Dick. And it’s a touch sacred, too. Israel grew up in Jerusalem, and you sense the influences of minarets and domes on works such as “At First Blush” and “Yellow Belly,” but whether you see space ships or houses of worship may not matter. Everything here is reaching for the sky. Rocket man or cleric, we’re all seeking meaning in the vastness of the cosmos.
Reuven Israel is at Shulamit Nazarian, 17 N. Venice Blvd, Venice, California 90291