criticismDispatches
Wednesday, October 1st, 2003

David Ben White


No. 12 is an unoccupied Tel Aviv penthouse, still filled with the rich lives of its past owners – Sarah, a Berlin-trained psychiatrist, born nearly 100 years ago in Palestine, and her flamboyant husband Bandi, who designed the building. The flat is as it was left, with its fine books, grand piano, paintings by Bandi and their famous friends, simple family kitchen and bedroom, occupied for years by Sarah on her own, and the plant-filled balcony with its views of a changing Tel Aviv. For many decades this flat was the heart of their large and closely connected family.

London-based artist David Ben White has created an installation of family portraits in the flat, which seem to inhabit another layer of experience without causing interruption or disrespect to the flat’s original narrative. Using a blend of dripped ink and collaged cutouts to offset his descriptive style, White has based his portraits on closeup photographs of the extended family, simplifying them on the computer, and coming up with a series of strong, painterly images which themselves manage to work on different levels at the same time. These strong, deconstructed faces, glossy black and garish colours on crisp white board, are pasted above, below and in front of the Sarah/Bandi experience, most of them pegged on to lines strung across the balcony where they bob in the breeze like laundry. Because White is a liked and trusted family friend, the faces tend to smile amiably, but the smiles and personalities of White’s subjects are subsumed by his own celebrative and investigative energy. The work of artists as disparate as Boltanski, Calder and Bacon come to mind; intended as a homage to a family, more than that it is a homage to painting.

The exhibition includes a video loop which shows the work as seen at different times of the day and night.


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