Andrea Meislin Gallery: Daniel Rothbart and the Paradigm of the Sacred
by Enrico Pedrini
Daniel Rothbart’s art, performances and writing, propose a new paradigm for art making, in which conceptualism advances beyond the self-referentiality of l’art pour l’art toward new functions, meanings, and potentials. In his work, myth becomes a utopian memory, which fosters a reconsideration of the sacred as an interactive space, capable of inspiring new situations and opening cross-cultural meanings.
For Rothbart, Kabbalah, the textual foundation of Jewish mysticism, represents a central element of artistic symbolism, which is ultimately visualized as a personal mythology. Kabbalah becomes an autonomous landscape drawn from the Judaic influences so important for the development of American modern and contemporary art.
Rothbart’s work is bound to the world of myth and surreal cultural memory. It is visualized as an historic sedimentation of knowledge and experience. This vision stands in opposition to much of contemporary culture, with its irreversible scientific developments, information superhighways, and genetic cloning. “Semiotic Street Situations”, a term invented by Rothbart, describes the symbolic exchanges that occur within social and cultural events. It is from these exchanges that Rothbart collects and transforms spiritual and emotional aspirations into visual form.
The street becomes a space on which the sedimentation of signs, emblems of relationships, social encounters, and life experiences, cohabitate. Rothbart focuses on the development of the relationships between people, objects, and myths of art and cinema. seeks to animate a theatre of life and culture. In the collective imagination, personalities and props become dynamic elements which build a semiotics of cultural and behavioral identity.
Memory, for this artist, is neither a reactionary device nor an intimate withdrawal. Prompted by real memories, Rothbart buries his hands in a sediment of cultural identity. His work is not resolved through by-laws or even in forms, but rather through a way of working, an artistic practice which substitutes representation of and simple appropriation of reality and nature; Art is reality and reality is something like a shared contradiction.
Rothbart’s work fits with a movement already quite developed in Europe, which I referred to as “utopia of the possible” in 1993 and which today I call Possibilism. The art of Possibilism is in a constant state of becoming and presents itself as an occasion to mirror reality, all the while reflecting an awareness that “everything” is part of the work of art. The Possibilist artists do not derive inspiration directly from reality but rather manipulate consciousness as a perception, always giving it a renewed context as the possibility of art. One characteristic of this movement is to propose a correction, a possible evolution of our perception of reality and nature as an effective resource for the production of art. Rothbart, through his obsessive search to attain an activation of consciousness itself, in a brutal and complete substitution of reality with art, finds himself within the discourse of Possibilism.
Meditation/Mediation, an exhibition of new sculpture, photography, and video works by Daniel Rothbart, curated by Enrico Pedrini, will be on view at Andrea Meislin Gallery through November 27, 2004 at 526 West 26th Street, #214, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 to 6 P.M.