Ran Schechori | 92

Playful Stance, Real Longings

Prof. Ran Schechori

The image-world of Joshua Griffit has always been anchored in fragments of memories and symbols of the "low" culture of childhood toys, the trimming of the bourgeois home, of glass vases, plastic flowers and china dolls in their gleaming colours. This Las Vegas world, so evidently fake and kitschy, which shines like Brooklyn gold and imitation diamond beads, is now replaced by the solid property of legitimate "high" culture.

   Griffit's new works break away from his previous inventory of images. His canvasses are no longer populated by the cumbersome automobiles of the forties, streetcars moving through fog, and picturesque mountain-top castles. The composition is no longer a random collage of images, where fragments of a fictitious reality meet pretty souvenirs from the realms of nostalgia. It is now organized in a frontal regimen, with a more rigid determination and discipline. Right-angled axes divide the surface and emphasize the painting's direct representationality.

   Griffit has stopped travelling. He sits and studies selected archives of the history of art and slowly chooses his subjects. The colorful angel-stickers, the miniature models and the overflowing abundance of nostalgic Kitsch have been replaced by references to the works of Courbet and Raphael, Leonardo and Van Gogh, Degas and Ingres. True, here and there a ship's prow rises above a swimming pool, an elephant carries an exaggerated sedan-chair, a slender hunting dog appears above a race-horse. But these are now secondary materials in the complex of quotations from the history book of the culture of painting.

   Postmodernism has given us license to travel forwards and backwards in time. Instead of the "here" and "now", paths have opened up to the various dimensions, layers and discoveries from the storehouses of culture. The uni-directional striving towards the future has been replaced by a more circular movement, where all is permitted, everything is open, anything is possible.

   But he leaves us not a glimmer of faith in seriousness and gravity of thought. Raphael, Courbet and Ingres too are transformed into plastic toys in the hands of the eternal child. The irony, the multiple ambiguity, and the recurrent mechanism of meticulous and precise construction of an illusion which is also consistently destroyed, do not permit us for even a fraction of a moment to believe that Raphael is really Raphael. For in this somnambulistic reality where Raphael and Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo are those terrors of all mothers, the Ninja Turtles, all world orders and revered hierarchies have collapsed.

   This is a secular painting, which gathers its components from the open field of associations and recollections, merrily picking all the protected flowers, rallying itself into a different actuality where truths are turned head over heels. Down is up, the near is small and the far is large. The airplane groans on the ground and the automobile lands in the aquarium. But in contrast to the old surrealistic pretension of creating an alarming actuality. Griffit's quasi-reality denies itself to knowledge with all the essence of its existence.

   The validity of this absurd fallacy stems from the nature of the accuracy. the hyper-realistic fidelity and meticulousness of design of each and every detail. Only the absolute truth of the components can create the fiction of the entire complex.

   This non—existent actuality is lit with a static sharpness as it reveals itself to us. There is no trace of mystery and vagueness about it, everything is sharp, severe and in merciless focus, so vivid, so clear, so understandable. At the same time, everything is declared as a negation of itself, as an impossible option and as a demolition of the artistic illusion. Griffit continues to deal with his main fields of interest — building and destroying, misleading, and showing his cards, precisely recording detail, and breaking the rules of the game. His hyper-realism is the opposite of reality. His learned quotations scoff at the solemn cultural pose. What remains is the game, the toy, and the fiction. And perhaps, beyond the playful and ironic stance, here and there true longings are revealed for a tiny corner of the world where there are just an ordinary girl, an ordinary armchair and an ordinary flower.