Ytong Series by Haimi Fenichel
We are used to see the term “fragile masculinity” as a mockery - however if we detach ourselves from the taunting meaning, it gives us a perfect description of one Israeli artist’s style. The artist’s name is Haimi Fenichel and he is a sculptor who chooses to work with materials one might more likely associate with construction site rather than with a studio of an artist who once graduated
the Department of Ceramics and Glass Design at the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Jerusalem. In his career Fenichel worked with sand, cement, terrazzo, even mud – recreating different objects that we are used to perceive as solid and “masculine” in a manner that renders them fragile and useless from a practical point of view.
His body of works made from Ytong (a special kind of lightweight porous concrete) particularly stands out when we speak of “fragile masculinity” or even, not to get confused, “masculine fragility”. He manually carves entire 5-feet long blocks of buildings that, succumbing to his touch, obtain almost an ethereal look. Fenichel’s Ytong pieces manage to look like a transparent lace and at the same time like a last building left standing
after a carpet bombing – a combination that more than anything expresses artist’s views on the melting pot that is Israeli society. Solid-looking buildings full of architectural details made with astonishing precision and craftsmanship meet friable, dented texture, gaping holes, walls in ruins that relay a constant feeling of bereavement and loss, a collective memory of those who died in battle.…
Fenichel himself admits that technique and material used in the Ytong series has both emotional and conceptual overtones: while porous concrete blocks bring industrial vibe to the table, the meticulous work that went into carving them negates the ready-made practice by stressing the craftsmanship
invested in the art object. As a result, the conflict between brutal construction site aesthetic and the delicate tracery of Fenichel’s craft creates a unique style that emphasizes how fragile and poetic what we are used to see as solid and mundane can be.
by Katia Rabey