The words shine brightly, with ambiguous authority, across embattled landscapes. "Wild" reads a custom light box, sited on the edge of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. "And urgent" reads another.
In Facts on the Ground (2014), multimedia artist Shimon Attie captures the uneasy visual, cultural, and political separations that have come to define the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. For all their deceptive simplicity, Attie's short, enigmatic phrases—installed in and around Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Negev desert, and the occupied West Bank—resist easy interpretation, raising as many questions as they answer.
Over the past two decades, Attie earned an international reputation for exploring themes of place, memory, and communal trauma, as well as the potential for regeneration. This fall, the Saint Louis Art Museum and Washington University's Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts welcomed Attie to St. Louis as their 2016-17 Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Teaching Fellow.
"The politics of place, collective memory, and post-conflict narratives are a central focus in Shimon's work," said Patricia Olynyk, the Florence and Frank Bush Professor and director of the Sam Fox School's Graduate School of Art. "His works are complex and deeply psychological, and underscore that—though history tends to repeat itself—it is not only possible but imperative to imagine new futures.
"Past projects—in Berlin, Copenhagen, and other international locations—have addressed historical human rights problems, which in turn draw attention to present-day violations," Olynyk added. "I anticipate that Shimon will connect the unique history, sociology, and political conditions of our own region to a broader set of global movements and concerns."
Supported by the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Endowment Fund, the Freund Teaching Fellowship is designed to promote the creation and exhibition of contemporary art as well as the teaching of contemporary art principles. It consists of two month-long residencies, during which recipients lead studio critiques of student work in the Sam Fox School while preparing an exhibition for the museum's Currents series.
The exhibition will open April 1, 2017, and remain on view through June 25. In addition, on March 31, Attie will deliver the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Fellowship Lecture as part of the Sam Fox School's spring Public Lecture Series.
Attie's work has been shown in museums and galleries around the world, including at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art. His artistic practice ranges from site-specific public projects and accompanying photographs to laser projections, immersive multichannel video installations, and other new media works.
Early projects included slide projections in Berlin's former Jewish quarter; underwater light boxes in Copenhagen's Borsgraven Canal; and sophisticated laser projections illuminating the immigrant experience on New York's Lower East Side. More recently, Attie has created multichannel video installations exploring New York's Israeli and Palestinian communities; the passage of time related to a former Long Island racetrack; and life in a Welsh village after a devastating man-made avalanche.
"Shimon is an established artist who has a history of producing powerful conceptual work that is both thought-provoking and formally beautiful," said Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum. "We are excited at the Museum about his forthcoming Currents show in the spring of 2017."
Saint Louis Art Museum
The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation's leading comprehensive art museums with collections that include works of art of exceptional quality from virtually every culture and time period. Areas of notable depth include Oceanic art, pre-Columbian art, ancient Chinese bronzes, and European and American art of the late 19th and 20th centuries, with particular strengths in 20th-century German art. The Museum offers a full range of exhibitions and educational programming generated independently and in collaboration with local, national, and international partners.
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
The Sam Fox School supports the creation, study, and exhibition of multidisciplinary and collaborative work. Offering rigorous art and architecture education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, the Sam Fox School links four academic units—the College of Art, College of Architecture, Graduate School of Art, and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design—with the University's nationally recognized Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.
Shimon Attie, WILD AND URGENT. Two on-location light boxes, Settler Houses, Israeli Settlement, West Bank, 2014, digital c-print / Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.