Kobi Assaf | Else-where

Opening exhibition September 18, 2014 at 8pm

Kobi Assaf: Shock of Life
By Ron Bartos

“There are in every man, at every hour, two simultaneous postulations, one towards God, the other towards Satan.”
(Charles Baudelaire, “Les Fleurs du Mal”, 1857)

If we had to place Kobi Assaf’s painting on the evolutionary spectrum, his classification as a hunter-gatherer would be fitting with his creative process.
By that we do not mean, of course, a hunter of animals and the foraging of food needs to sustain life, but rather a hunter of images and a painter’s aesthetic gathering of “heights of existence”.
That is to say, the artist searches for images in the endless torrent of visual data of today’s reality, and chooses from it the moments he desires, even though it seems that there is no clear link connecting them, apart from their definition as “heights of existence”.
The cursed poet Charles Baudelaire observed with curiosity the fibers of modern existence, and with sensitive acuteness put to words the encounter with the “shock of life” and the unity of contrasts – first and foremost of which are God and Satan.
A similar thing takes place under Kobi Assaf’s brush: like the inspiration that appeared before the poet while randomly wandering through the streets of Paris, so does the artist draw on images that his eyes have captured in his wanderings (Internet, newspapers, photographs, movies etc.).
These images then serve as catalysts to a creative process in which the artist applies his imagination, the dark phosphorus color palette typical of his paintings, the accentuation or omission of details, the fusion and crossbreeding of images, distortion of the subjects of the painting, and dramatic orchestration of its components etc. – all for the intensification of those foci into what was referred here as the “shock of life” or “heights of existence”.
These definitions apply to moments in which the human spirit seems to be on the brink of the abyss, moments in which the individual’s existence is heightened. Thus for example, we find in his painting depictions of death and seduction, people having sex or animals mating, an encounter with natural deformations, viewing art, facing sublime landscape, identity play through dressing up, focusing on the moment of breathing, and similar highs and lows of the human experience.
Looking at Kobi Assaf’s work as a whole is akin to looking simultaneously at views taken from the laboratory microscope lens, underground party, natural history museum, cinema or theater, magazine, newspaper or the bedroom, for the hunter-gatherer, or shall we say the painter-gatherer, also assumes the role of an eclectic collector, whose collection is guarded beneath display cases open for all to see.