Iftah Geva, an artist who works in partnership with Gal Goldner — they both live on a kibbutz in northern Israel— has his work on display in “New Technologies in Design,” an exhibition at the Moderne Gallery, until May 6. His first solo exhibition in the U.S. will display works done primarily with wood and technology.
Think of a coffee table and a few standard elements come to mind — simplicity, stability and perhaps fashionability. It’s something that will hold your coffee and maybe a few magazines.
That’s not quite the case for Iftah Geva, who created a coffee table with a large hole in the middle.
Geva, an artist who works in partnership with Gal Goldner — they both live on a kibbutz in northern Israel— has his work on display in “New Technologies in Design,” an exhibition at the Moderne Gallery, until May 6. His first solo exhibition in the U.S. will display works done primarily with wood and technology.
Viewers can see works Geva has completed in the last three to four years, including a coffee table, an end table, two stools, a prototype for a bench, two kinetic sculptures and a large bracelet.
Josh Aibel, co-director of the Moderne Gallery, first saw Geva and Goldner’s works in 2012 and was blown away.
“The way they use the wood is something I’ve never seen,” Aibel said. “They think about it from a different angle than really anybody else that I’ve ever seen.”
As the gallery focuses mainly on wood works such as sculptures, tables and furniture, Aibel is quite used to seeing nature in action in that way — but that sense of familiarity disappeared after he saw what Geva and Goldner created.
That’s because they use another element in their work: carbon fiber.
“With their combination of carbon fiber with the wood, it gives it this amazing look,” Aibel said. “Very light, very fluid — it just draws you in because it’s not what you’re used to seeing. You become very curious once you start looking at it. Nobody’s ever done anything like this.”
The artists add a polish on their pieces that is commonly used for aircraft or F1 cars. That gives it a shiny finish not typically seen on wood pieces.
“It adds another element that you’re never really used to seeing wood look like,” Aibel said. “[It] brings out other characteristics in the wood that haven’t been shown previously.”
He paused before adding, “It’s hard to describe without seeing it.”
What they’ve created has often confused people, Aibel added, because they aren’t used to seeing wood without it looking like, well, wood.
“If you see a splice in the wood, Geva and Goldner, they will use that. You will see the fiber poking through,” he said. “They’re using the character of the wood and nature’s design and just highlighting the beauty through contemporary design and through contemporary machinery.”
When he first saw one of their creations, Aibel wasn’t totally sure what he was seeing. It was a coffee table, but it had a large hole in the middle.
Was it a table? Was it a sculpture? Was it both?
“They really drew my interest because I look at furniture as sculpture, not just as functional art,” said Aibel, who has worked at the gallery for eight years, co-directing for five of them. “And this is something that really explores those boundaries.”
To this day, people will often look at the pieces and ask, “What is this?”
“Functionality isn’t necessarily their prime target,” Aibel said. “But that being said, one of the tables has a hole in the middle. So at first, when you first look, you think, ‘How can they use this as a coffee table?’ Then you start to see there’s plenty of space. The hole gives it this life.”
Watching people’s reactions to Geva and Goldner’s work and understanding what they’re seeing is one of Aibel’s favorite parts — partially because he went through it himself.
But once people really look at the work, their expressions change.
“One of the things I’ve noticed a lot of about their work is the amount of tension and appreciation people have for it instantly. I felt that myself,” he said. “When I take a look at pieces, at first generally, I’m never usually seeing that ‘wow’ factor, and when I first saw these pieces, there was no question in my mind about how amazing and talented and how far ahead of their time Geva and Goldner are.”
Part of the understanding comes from realizing how long it takes to create the pieces. The coffee table Aibel referenced took more than a year to create. That is partly why this is the first opportunity there has been for a solo exhibit, as Aibel said it takes time for the work to be done.
It also creates pressure because, as Geva said, there is no room for mistakes.
“The creation of the wood-carbon fiber works is very complex,” Geva wrote in an email, “and more than that, it’s not forgiven [for a mistake]. A work like that takes 2,000 working hours — imagine yourself, making a mistake after 1,700 hours — a mistake can’t be fixed because I’m working with one piece of wood and if the wood is damaged you can’t fix.”
Geva enjoys working with the wood-carbon fiber medium because it allows him to have a “very large freedom of creation and to push the boundaries of thought and imagination.”
He also has created sculptures using all carbon fiber and machinery typically not used for art.
“The machinery that I need to create [the] works is very advanced equipment and it’s usually used for manufacturing drone parts,” he said, adding that he is working on pieces that use only carbon fiber. “I’m using the most prominent properties of the material, light and strong, to achieve those unique artworks.”
The “New Technologies in Design” exhibit is something he hopes will allow people to see these, as he put it, “prominent properties in motion” — sometimes quite literally.
“At the current exhibition you can find work that I have done four years ago in a unique technology, mixing wood and carbon fiber,” he wrote. “Those works, you can see the dynamics in the side of the inanimate object and you can find my newest artwork that’s built only from carbon fiber, this artwork [is] not attached to anything and the lightest wind will make them come alive, start moving.”
The kinetic element to Geva’s work is something else that caught Aibel’s eye, such as the carbon fiber piece called “Relations.”
The black and white piece, which “looks like a big inner tube,” as Aibel described it, is weighted on the bottom so it stands, but if you put it on the ground, it will start to move wherever the weight is.
“No matter where it lies, whether it’s on its side or in motion or standing still, it’s always in [balance],” Aibel said. “You can’t knock this off its axis. I’ve never seen a kinetic sculpture that gained in elegance once it started to move. People are kind of blown away, and that to me speaks volumes because it’s hard to make something fun and playful that’s considered a piece of art that doesn’t lose that elegance once it’s in motion.”
That this exhibition focuses on these elements and also combines them with technology like the machinery tells a lot about the boundaries art has been able to push, he said.
“The world centers around technology these days,” Aibel said, “and they’ve been able to take the technology and make it interactive and make it into something that’s mind-boggling — the conversations I’ve had over these pieces just simply by somebody asking, ‘Is this wood?’ It’s kind of amazing. These pieces really kind of open people up to explore their own thoughts.”
That exploration is one of Geva’s goals for those who check out the work.
“I will be very happy if people that will see my work will get something from it,” Geva wrote. “The process of creating the work is a process that comes from inside of me, it has something with my emotion, belief, looking into myself, looking outside to the world, my willing to explore and my need to do. I put a lot of effort to make the work as accurate as I can. I do what I do because I like it, hopefully the people will like it as well.
“I think that if it will move people to think, it will please me.”
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