The photographs on display at the Praz-Delavallade gallery reveal the inner depths of both a man and his country. Through his work, Israeli artist Adi Nes recreates the existing tension of his daily life, as well as the lives of many others living and fighting daily. Nes unfurls multiple layers to expose physical and spiritual death.
The perfectly smooth looking photographs portray men on their missions: soldiers protecting/defending their countries, but also regular men defending their right to be gay. These two notions ARE subtly interlaced in the photographs. The soldiers, in their uniforms, overplay their virility to camouflage a side which is often considered soft, and which could be perceived as negative for a fighter. Nes points out the obvious, what is whispered, but never spoken out loud. He uses iconic masterpieces from the 16th century as his inspiration, and borrows the homoeroticism which existed in Da Vinci, Caravaggio, or Michelangelo’s representation of mankind.
The formats of his photographs are predictable in the sense that they all depict ordinary Israelis. Nes orchestrates the set-up, and has his characters almost always looking at the viewer. Their eyes put into words their interior dialogues, and express the desire to communicate through the surface of the picture, in the close corners of an art gallery. I believe this configuration “speaks” to the viewer, and I end up “listening” and feeling empathetic towards these strangers. Beneath their manly appearance, their muscly physique, fierce look, and statuesque pose, a different world inhabits the men.
Upon reading Nes’ biography, I measure the greater meaning behind each of the photographs and can imagine all of the obstacles the artist and other Israeli men face daily. Identity, religion, and duty are perhaps more than in any other country intertwined in with human beliefs. These men’s personalities, sexual preferences, and all the other components of their secret gardens, in the end, don’t figure in into their futures. Besides the traumatic experience of having to live a life directed by dogmas, Nes softly initiates the viewer’s encounter with death. The soldiers, tenderly laying on each other, as if they were taking a nap, recharging their energy levels to brave yet another fight, are in a position where they could, in fact be lifeless. Upon realizing this eventuality, I am, in a mere instant, immersed in sadness and grief. The photograph has unraveled the brutal layers of reality, which makes me circle back to the first exploration of homosexuality and makes me question if this IS all worth it. In a world where, the destination is death, couldn’t sexual preferences be spared exposure to daily humiliation, hatred and guilt?
A Rooted Wandering: Adi Nes at Praz-Delavallade (18 May – 24 June 2017)