by Dehlia Mitchell-Gray
Evolution, which ran at Pace Gallery from May 4th to August 17th, was a showcase of work by Israeli artist Michal Rovner. Rovner began her career as a photographer in the late 1980’s, and has since developed into a video artist. Although rarely outright political, her work often deals with real and imagined human boundaries, especially in the Middle East. Rovner also exhibited at Pace’s Palo Alto location earlier this year, and has been featured by the Louvre and Whitney museums as well.
Rovner’s show at Pace was powerful because it showcased the unique visual language which she has created in her work. This was highlighted by the show’s curation, which guided viewers through the space in a way which enhanced the artist’s visual narrative. The first piece was a small projection on stone. The grooved, textured stone and simple, repetitive figures suggested neolithic cave art, despite the obvious contrast with the technology which actually made the piece possible. The show then transitioned into much larger pieces. These also blurred the lines of medium; although they were clearly moving videos, their size, composition, and repetitive motions gave them an almost painterly quality. Although the figures in each piece were almost identical, their different motions and compositions completely changed the narrative. Some appeared as chromosomes wavering on a plate, while others seemed to depict massive human migrations. Michal Rovner manipulated the narrative just through small changes in color, movement, and light. The show also included some large prints, or video stills. These appeared as tapestries, or maybe rorschach tests. Either way, they communicated the same concepts of group identity, and a kind of ancient lineage as the rest of the show.
Michal Rovner’s work is noteworthy because of the nuanced way in which she handles digital art. As a still fairly new medium, digital art can sometimes feel abrasive, or hyper-technological in a way that can feel inhuman. However, Rovner’s digital work feels like a step in an art historical progression, rather than a complete break. Although it is fairly abstract, it still retains a narrative and human quality which makes it instantly relatable and deeply interesting. She also deals with very current and complicated political issues in a very delicate manner. The nature of her current and past work, as well as her nationality, invite allusions to conflicts at the Israel-Palestine border, and the migrations and communities which exist as a result. The simplicity and even beauty of her imagery invites contemplation of themes like migration, borders, and human community without overwhelming the artistry of her work.