S A H A R Z U K E R M A N
The Promise, The Lion, The Omen
October 15 - December 23, 2022
We are very pleased to present the exhibition The Promises, The Lion, The Omen by the young Israeli artist Sahar Zukerman in our Berlin gallery. Zukerman has been living in Berlin since 2009 and is a representative of the new post-digital, pop-iconographic art.
Trading cards and stickers evoke a familiar, nostalgic sense of childhood memory: the excitement of getting new stickers, or finally finding a long-awaited trading card. (And there are always those especially coveted designs that are so rare.) It’s a game between collecting and swapping, adding and discarding. You put together a lot of little pieces to make a big whole. And it’s a bit like that in Sahar Zukerman’s work, too.
In his work, Zukerman uses certain figures that repeatedly appear in various constellations. Like a generous repertoire, he has them at his disposal as elements of a story that can be read individually or as part of a larger whole. These motifs, from lion and seahorse to drum and lightning bolt, immediately and strikingly catch the eye. Here, “striking” is to be understood in the best sense: everything takes place equally on one level. The images are quickly perceived, striking, and colorful. In addition, there is a new technique that can be seen for the first time in the exhibition. The new works in The Rare Winners series explicitly refers to the idea of trading cards and are painted on hologram paper. Some of the paintings also have an iridescent layer of color. (The beautifully shimmering motifs are in high demand for trading cards, by the way.)
The attractive surface is one side of his artistic methodology. The selection of motifs, on the other hand, testifies to an intensive examination of the world and its nature, its millennia-old symbolism. Zukerman unites biblical, political, and pop-cultural themes in his expansive, painterly gestures. The burning bush—for the artist the ultimate emblem of duality—is a theme from the Old Testament, and Zukerman transfers the “old” story into a contemporary metaphor. What can the Old Testament narrative still say today? Does the bush bring the redeeming fire that ushers in a new beginning, or does it stand for the ultimate destruction of nature, which we are to blame for?
The bright yellow popsicle is diametrically opposed to this. It is a promise of hot summer days and lightness. But the flames surrounding the object seem to warn of the seductive power of the sugary taste. Is the sweetness meant to make us forget the bitter reality? Zukerman accesses this broad spectrum naturally and without restraint.
The symbols are from a primarily Jewish and Christian cultural tradition, which the artist knows very well from his personal life experience. He reminds us that the long traditional stories are not so far away from our present canon of values in the midst of consumerism and capitalism. Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth sometimes even seem to gain renewed popularity.
One can regard trading cards as a nostalgic relic. However, one can also understand the desire for accumulation and need that lies behind it as a still very strong driver of society and the individual. Zukerman paints beautiful, humorous, and appealing pictorial narratives, only to immediately unmask their inherent ambivalence. Nothing is certain, and, above all, nothing is clear. Zukerman draws a world that has not yet decided between good and evil, nor will it ever do so. Rather, it is the ambiguously open that so exquisitely captivates and never lets us go.
Sahar Zukerman was born in England in 1985 and grew up in Tel Aviv. He studied at the University of the Arts in Berlin from 2009 to 2014 and has lived and worked in Berlin ever since. His work has been featured in numerous international solo and group exhibitions, including in Vienna, Berlin, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, London, Moscow, Cologne, Leipzig, and Dresden.
Dr. Kristina Schrei