Kobi Assaf / Dis-Play
Curator: Yaron Haramati
Text: Tali Kayam

Kobi Assaf’s studio – an underground shelter – has recently underwent a process of renovation. Workers, foreign elements, enter his inner, hidden, world and disturb its rules, known only to him, in a space in which he considers time to stand still. Assaf works mostly at night, in the transition between one day and the next, the opportune time in which fairytales materialize, when ghosts and demons come into the world. These appear and disappear among the wooden boards on which Assaf paints, capturing and framing moments of movement and liveliness – embalming fragments of time.

A series of pairs of legs in ruby slippers step on his studio’s floor in a dance that will never be completed. This is the dance of Dorothy, the protagonist of the Wizard of Oz, as she was played by Judy Garland. Cinema’s inherent quality of immortality that keeps the figure of the movie star alive, is taken away slowly and methodically with every painted step. Captured in the web comprised of layers of glazes, splashes of pigment, and ink stains. All fixed on the rigid wooden surface, unable to step away from it into the tangible world.

In another frame, we encounter taxidermic birds, images taken from the collection of a natural history museum, originally catalogued according to scientific taxonomy. In Koby Assaf’s private natural history museum, they are seen as colorful candies – a bird as green paint next to red. Here, there is also a place for cataloging the trivial and the wretched, like flies in the act of mating or a painted rabbit inspired by a porcelain figurine. Again, the framing of the moment plays a central role and adds to the deceptiveness: the pieces of masking tape with which Assaf attached the sheets of papers to his studio walls when he works make them look like a postcard or polaroid photographs, souvenirs for the viewer to take with him.

Some of the works offer landscapes and arenas that the viewer has never visited: a snowy mountain melting or growing from a theater stage hidden by drapes. The mountain glimpses again between chairs that look like abstract shapes. The houses of cards may also reverberate it, serving as mountains of papers – as a makeshift landscape.

For Kobi Assaf, the painting is a stage for characters from different stories. Some remain completely obscure. Nude figures without faces or identity, cut at the torso, flashing and disappearing in pale, moldy hues. Dissolving into and reflected in one another, as in a mirror. Parts of their bodies possibly hiding in the series of full flower bouquets. In this case, Assaf prefers to “mix it up” and jumble the subjects of the paintings to break the series. To defy the framing sequence. Allow the viewer an independent reading of the imagery, one that is free from hierarchy. He wishes to transform the walls of the gallery into honey traps. Capture the viewer’s gaze with the eternal beauty of a fleeting moment.

Kobi Assaf (b. 1982) graduated with honors from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. He received painting excellence scholarships from The America-Israel Cultural Foundation. His works were sold in art fairs around the world and are held in private collections in Israel, London, Dublin, New York, and Basel. This is Assaf’s second solo exhibition at Zemack Contemporary Art.