Curator: Hagai Segev
23 Feb — 20 April, 2013
The Coal Series was conceived when Epstein visited the Jerusalem forest due to the large-scale fire that consumed large portions of the woods. Epstein photographed the smoking trees and the ashes that remained on the ground after the fire. These photographs “envelope” the exhibit, which consists mainly of an installation of sculptures and burnt objects.
Max Epstein’s perception is that art explores the cycle of usability of various objects surrounding us: their construction and dismantling, their domestic use, their erosion, decomposition, burning down, and vanishing at the end of the road. He regards fire, which has become a central component of his works in recent years, as a work instrument, akin to the artist’s paintbrush, the sculptor’s chisel or the photographer’s camera.
The abandoned trees and objects, which Epstein collects off the streets of Jerusalem, assume the role of raw materials in his art. He shapes sculptures from these materials, and then sets them ablaze or gradually burns them with a burner. The wooden objects are the sculpting tool upon which he sketches, draws or sculpts with flames. Alongside all these, he fashions clay figures that merge into the artistic installation. The combination of the burnt furnishings and images comprise the architectural space, which is also an impractical sculptural expanse. Consumption by fire and combustion are motifs that fuse all the objects together.
Epstein views the act of burning as a self-consuming Dadaist act – he toys with the very essence of the act, mocks it, and ultimately, puts it on display in order to obtain an emotional response from the spectator.
In addition to the physical experience that the objects create, a sensual experience emerges from the fire, against the backdrop of the smell of fire and the fumes evaporating from the burning wood. The smell of fire and the smell of danger of playing with fire is an arousing, sensual smell, which provides the experience of observing a once beautiful object going up in flames, decomposing, wearing away and coming apart within minutes.
The question which Epstein puts forward deals with the cycles of creation of art, the disintegration of the original and potential uses of the object and the new significance that it takes on, from a historical as well as a design perspective. The burnt object serves as testimony to the original object, encapsulating the history of its use, and that of the people it served. Now emerges the question of the feasibility of connecting the spectator to the object and the new implications as exemplified by its novel state.