Ocelli/Abigail Winograd

From whatever side one approaches things, the ultimate problem turns out in the final analysis to be that of distinction: distinction between the real and the imaginary, between waking and sleeping, between ignorance and knowledge, etc.

      Roger Caillois

The ocellus is a morphogenetic feature found in certain species of insects, reptiles, fish, cats, and birds. These rounded markings closely resembling eyes function as a form of camouflage or mimicry, a useful and uniquely beautiful piece of genetic deception most dramatically illustrated on the tails of male peacocks. This same phenomenon is visible though in much less spectacular fashion in certain species of seagulls and are the subject of a new series of photographs by the Israeli born artist Assaf Evron. The third eye, featured in the uncanny, portraits of gulls, alludes to the principle subject of inquiry, namely the unreliable and deceptive nature of vision.

The Sea was Smooth, Perfectly Mirroring the Sky is comprised of work from several different series each of which reflects the artist’s interest in theories of optics and the logic of visuality the examination and permutations of which underpin the photographic and sculptural logic of his recent practice. The visual simplicity of Evron’s work belies an often laborious and layered way of working as each series of objects is the result of multiple translations often from object to photograph or photograph to sculpture or some combination of the two. His process is generative in its layering of meaning produced by the selection or creation of an image, physical phenomena, as well an active philosophical engagement with the work of artists (Albrecht Dürer, Mies van der Rohe and Robert Smithson) and thinkers (Aby Warburg and Leopold Jessner).

The concern with deception, reflection, and mimicry reflects the artist’s training as a student of aesthetic philosophy specifically the work of the Renaissance polymath Leon Battista Alberti who wrote the first treatise on linear perspective. For Evron, Alberti is the Nostradamus of the visual as he finds the expression of his theories in the everyday reality of our increasingly digital world. He has, for example, explored the use of an X-Box Kinect, the popular video-gaming device, which projects infrared light into three-dimensional space to map space and movement. Using an infrared camera, Evron captures the effects of these projections, invisible to the naked eye, cast on carefully composed still-lives. The on-going series, Visual Pyramid After Alberti, which resemble a starry night sky if the sky were a shade of brilliant purple, as well as the very process Alberti described for accurately translating the physical world into art in Della Pittura written in 1453. Evron’s practice transcribes Alberti’s fifteenth century theories of painting via the mathematical and digital formulas of the twenty first reflecting the pervasive presence of technology while simultaneously transforming his photographic and sculptural works into metaphors of painting.

Some of the most fascinating expressions of automimicry (when one part of an organism mimics another) are found in certain species of insects, specifically butterflies and moths. Like peacocks, these animals use the ocelli on their wings to evade predation. When immobile, these fake pairs of eyes are a passive form of camouflages that masks the insects position, but should that ruse fail they become active, even aggressive, as they spread their wings and take flight making themselves appear larger and more menacing in the process. Like the ocelli, Evron’s work reminds us that what we see is not what we see – a refutation of Frank Stella’s axiom regarding the premise undergirding American Minimalism (“What you see is what you see”) a movement Evron frequently references. Rather, the visual representations that we encounter conceal layers of information and hidden knowledge waiting to be excavated. They are metaphors for our relationship to the physical world. By translating optical phenomenon into objects, Evron work calls into question our illusory relationship to the physical and visual environment.

Using Format