Opening November 15, the work of acclaimed Israeli photographer Adi Nes will be exhibited as part of Art and Resolution: 1900 to Today. Based in Tel Aviv, Nes (born 1966) creates large-scale color photographs that imply fictional narratives with factual undertones. Four works from the series The Village present various tableaux depicting a utopian kibbutz that bears subtle traces of military occupation. They are at once nostalgic and tragic. Born in Kiryat Gat, a development city, Nes realized early on that the outsiderness that was central to his identity could be a generative site of exploration for his artistic practice. As a gay Sephardic Jew whose parents had emigrated from Iran, he grew up both visibly and invisibly different from his lighter-skinned peers of Ashkenazi (European) Jewish descent. The figures that pose in his staged photographs are actors, almost always Sephardic Jews, whose enactment of allegorical scenes resonant with national Israeli identity highlights the country’s diverse ethnic profile. In the Soldiers series and others, Nes problematizes Israeli masculinity by combining an erotics of looking with military self-presentation, reflecting on the early twentieth-century Zionest rhetoric of the powerful, masculine “New Jew” (native-born Israelis) that was emphasized during his time serving in the Israeli army. The photographs convey this national and historic drama in their almost life-size scale, which approaches the cinematic, and their ambiguous scenes, which seem paused in a moment preceding or following a significant action.
Staff at the Museum worked with Marilyn Reizbaum, the Harrison King McCann Professor of English at Bowdoin, to conceive this installation of artworks by Nes, who is the subject of a chapter of Professor Reizbaum’s book project, Unfit: The Jewish Science of Modernism. Nes will deliver the 2016–2017 Harry Spindel Memorial Lecture on November 15 at 7:30 p.m., and will give a gallery talk at 4:00 p.m. on November 16 in the Museum.