Time Out New York / Apr 8–14, 2010

Tamy Ben-Tor and Miki Carmi

There are no immediately obvious similarities between the work of video and performance artist Tamy Ben-Tor and painter Miki Carmi. True, they live together and have a child; both hail from Israel and scored MFAs at Columbia in the same year, but the connections would seem to end there. Nevertheless, the pair is collaborating on two concurrent exhibitions this month. And while each artist largely adheres to his or her own established themes and methods, the juxtaposition of their outwardly divergent oeuvres isn’t without logic.

The artists frame their joint project in terms of “the dialectic of the archetypal and the concrete”—otherwise known as caricature. And while their targets never directly overlap, Ben-Tor and Carmi both train a mordant eye on their elders by summoning up a variety of grotesque personalities and perspectives that only gain absurdity with their subjects’ proximity to death.

Carmi’s approach is the more straightforward of the two. Brushing exaggerated profiles of elderly gents onto pockmarked and irregularly stretched canvases, he engineers a direct physical parallel between actuality and representation. His mastery of the tone and texture of aged flesh lends the images a kind of hyperreality, as liver spots and broken capillaries are rendered with hallucinatory intensity and each disembodied head becomes part bruised fruit, part golem. Ben-Tor’s videos (and the photographs of her in costume, taken by Carmi) see the artist embody a range of unprepossessing individuals. Most of these twist Jewish myths and stereotypes into bizarre new shapes; a couple also incorporate gobbets of all-too-familiar art-world small talk. Throughout, Ben-Tor’s extraordinary powers of observation remain apparent—even if her narratives sometimes tend toward obscurity.

Image: Miki Carmi, Acidic Grandmother, 2010