A Unique Experience
This show was a joy to review. First of all, I love photography and Malka has presented photographs that are beautifully lit and composed. Each tells an interesting story and gives the viewer something to think about. There’s a lot of exposed skin, tension, and turbulence. They could stand alone as their own show. But there’s much more to the show than cool images.
In order to understand and appreciate it, you must have the “Almost Touching” experience. It starts with a 360 look around the gallery from the middle. Watch out, or you might hit your head on a t-shirt hanging from the ceiling – each with a poignant or comically miss-translated message printed on it. Walk directly to the rear of the space and take in the couple of pieces tucked back there. Brace yourself for a surprise. Now that you have your visual overview it’s time to delight the olfactory. If you look down you’ll see chocolate cake on little pedestals. Most likely it’s partially enjoyed already. On top, there’s a message. When you bend down to read it, you’ll no doubt be distracted by the delightful smell only homemade chocolate cake has.
An Attempt at Intimacy
What is this show about? Really. Well, anyone can read the gallery write-up, and I do suggest doing so, but even it says “Yael’s photographs begin to reveal themselves only when we identify their illusions”. I would say this is true about the whole show. What struck me as I married the artists’ intent to my personal experience of her work, was the repeated and varied attempts at experiencing intimacy. Photographs, quirky t-shirts, ephemera and dessert all come together as a happy yet dysfunctional family.
It’s All About Skin
There is a lot of bare skin in the show. Skin is arguably our best vehicle for intimacy. It certainly is the most fun! There’s a barefoot covered in vasoline, a topless couple (one with a really cool tattoo), a collage of hands in various gestures, a man with a mask (kind of an artificial skin) with hands either taking the mask off or putting it on, it’s interesting to guess which. Each image exposes aspects of the subjects that give us a glimpse of their human experience. A kind of voyeuristic intimacy that’s always exciting. An intimacy that says “Maybe you didn’t want me to notice that about you, but I did, and I like that you don’t know that I did”.
Cake and Found Notes – Intimacy with Strangers
Malka is a New Yorker, and as any New Yorker knows, we all have more intimacy with strangers than is sometimes comfortable. Crowded subways, in the summertime, with tank-top clad people raising their arms in your face about 4 inches away, for a long commute . . . need I say more? But sometimes intimacy with strangers can be interesting. Malka has achieved this by incorporating found objects. She made a cool statement with notes strangers have left behind, and she made them edible! When I saw her edible notes, having a respect for art, I was careful not to touch them. Later I found out that guests are actually invited to eat cake. The day I was there, this was one of the re-printed messages: “It’s the little things in life that make life so much better like spending time with family and friends or even spending time with animals. What counts is your [you’re?] doing fun things with the people you love. What I notice is [when] the people you care about are with you you see so much clearer” It was written by someone named Dominque on April 24, 2014. Dominque, truer words were never spoken, wherever you are.
Yael Malka, Almost Touching at The Rubber Factory
March 10 – April 18, 2018
29c Ludlow Street, New York, NY, 10002.