Signals from the Studio...Artist Reuven Israel on the Sum of Possibilities

Audio interview with artist Reuven Israel, conducted in the spring of 2020.

Reuven Israel, In Four Acts, 2018, installation view of solo exhibition at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo by Ethan Browning.

In this segment of Artis’ audio interview series, we speak with New York-based artist Reuven Israel about making sculptures that explore logics, frameworks, and questions, while thoughtfully ruminating on the human experience.

In my practice, I try to build a system that generates objects—like creating a vocabulary and language, and then operating in that language. I am trying to create a world while searching for meaning…Through sculpture, I hope to understand beyond sculpture. It sounds a bit mystical, but it’s not. It’s very practical. -Reuven Israel

Reuven Israel creates tactile sculptures with smooth surfaces and enticing shapes that are industrial in appearance, but are the result of a labor-intensive manual process using wood and paint. Sometimes kinetic, they can spin or change shapes. Reuven’s sculptures reference a range of topics and themes, from religion to science fiction. In this interview, he discusses the evolution of his practice as well as his recent body of work exploring flux, variation, and transformation through object-making. These recent sculptures are not confined by shape or scale. Rather, they can bend, unfold, and be arranged into multiple configurations. In Reuven’s 2018 solo exhibition, In Four Acts, at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in Los Angeles (pictured above), the sculptures were rearranged in the gallery four times throughout the run of the show, exposing their possible assemblages and the potential of the installation. Currently, Reuven is working on a new site specific installation of changeable sculptures, which is scheduled to open at the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv in July 2021.

Reuven also talks about unique ways that the public have engaged with his works, including Bigger SBM (Stands By Me), his first permanent outdoor installation in Seter Square in Tel Aviv. Commissioned in 2016, the installation appears as two large sticks piercing the ground, which hold a variety of stacked shapes and forms (see image below). Reflecting on how his sculptures have been interpreted by the public, Reuven explains that, “a lot of people confront my art and they look for the story, they look for the ideology. I am not trying to describe an ideology through the object. The object is autonomous, a meditative experience on the world.”

This interview was conducted in the Spring of 2020, and edited for conciseness. It is part of Artis’ audio series, Signals from the Studio…, where we speak with artists from Israel, and delve into current topics in contemporary art and culture that they address in their practice. Signals from the Studio… is produced by Artis and made in partnership with journalist, urbanist, and writer, Yonatan H. Mishal , who hosts and edits the interviews. This episode was made with audio assistance from Michelle Rosen.

Reuven Israel, Bigger SBM (Stands By Me), 2016, public sculpture installation in Seter Square, Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Elad Sarig.

Participant Bios

Photos (Left to right): Reuven Israel, photo by Gili Getz; Yonatan H. Mishal, photo by Yuli Gorodinsky.

Reuven Israel is an artist from Jerusalem, living and working in New York. He received his BFA (2004) and MFA (2007) from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. He has exhibited his work in solo exhibitions at the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv (upcoming); Shulamit Nazarian Gallery, Los Angeles (2018, 2016); Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv (2018, 2016, 2010, 2006); Fridman Gallery, New York (2014); the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2011, with Shai Azoulay); and Museo Civico Floriano Bodini, Gemonio, Italy (2010). Israel has participated in numerous group exhibitions internationally, including “Crossing Lines,” Kunsthalle Osnabrück (2019); “Twist,” Fused, San Francisco (2018); “Flair,” Fridman Gallery, New York (2017); “Same Same But Different,” Minus1 Gallery, Tel Aviv (2017); “The Museum Imagined,” Danese Corey, New York (2017); “The Museum Presents Itself 2,” Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2015); “Domestic Ideals,” Lesley Heller Gallery, New York (2015); “The Readymade Centennial,” Haifa Museum of Art (2013); “Re: Visiting Rockefeller,” Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, Jerusalem (2012); and “Senses of the Mediterranean,” Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2011).

Israel is a recipient of The Young Artist Prize, Ministry of Culture and Sport, Israel (2009); The Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s Legacy Heritage Fund Prize (2007); The America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship (2004/5/6); and the Ehud Elhanani prize, Department of Fine Art, Bezalel Academy (2004). Israel’s work is included in public and private collections, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Ashdod Art Museum, Haaretz Collection, Collection of Hapoalim Bank, Zabludowicz Collection, and the Brandes Collection. His permanent public installation, Bigger SBM (Stands By Me), is installed in Setter Square, Tel Aviv.

Yonatan H. Mishal is an urban explorer and writer, based in New York City. He currently works with the United Nations, in the department of global communications, and as a correspondent for Erev-Rav arts and culture magazine in Israel. His writing includes investigative journalism, commentary, reviews, interviews and art critique. His ongoing project in the past ten years of conducting interviews with curators and artists, aims to draw a real-time, first hand picture of the Israeli art scene.

Readings recommended by Reuven Israel

Selection of readings, recommended by Reuven Israel, that influence his art practice or are about his work:

Contemporary Artist Reuven Israel
by Anjali Singh, Asian Curator (July 2020)
Shulamit Nazarian: Reuven Israel
by Jody Zellen, Artillery Magazine (December 2018)
The Quadruple Object
by Graham Harman (first published in 2010, and published in 2011 by John Hunt Publishing)
The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible
by Jacques Ranciere (first published in 2000, and published in 2004 by Bloomsbury Academic, edited and translated by Gabriel Rockhill)

Reuven Israel, Untitled: Folding Object 57A, 2019, installation view at Yeh Art Gallery, St. John’s University, Queens, NY.

Reuven Israel, Offshoot, 2018, installation view at Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo by Elad Sarig.