noa arad yairi

Madonnas

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Madonna #1

The Madonna of The Toilet

2016, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf, 53x21x18 cm

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Madonna #2

2016, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf, 54x21x18 cm

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Madonna #3

       2017, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf, 48x22x21 cm

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Madonna #4

 Resting Piece

       2017, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf, 23x39x52 cm

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Madonna #5

 Madonna and child I 

2018, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf,46x23x30 cm

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Madonna #6

      2018, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf, 25x67x31 cm

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Madonna #7

      2018, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf, 66x21x18 cm

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Madonna #8

Madonna and Child II

 

       2019, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf, 61x30x28 cm

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Madonna #9

2019, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf,
17x30xLength65 cm

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Madonna #10

2020, polymeric plaster, wire
gold leaf,
52x32x39 cm

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Madonna #11

2020, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf,
56x34x50 cm

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Madonna #12

2021, polymeric plaster, wire,
gold leaf,
59x29x22 cm

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Madonna #4 

2021, Oil on canvas, gold leaf
180x120 cm

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Madonna #3 

2020, Oil on canvas, gold leaf

 95.x70 cm

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Madonna #2

2020, Oil on canvas, gold leaf
95x59 cm

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Madonna #1 

2018, Oil on canvas, gold leaf
95x59 cm

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Madonna 

2021, Oil on canvas, gold leaf

60x85 cm

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Madonna #11

2021, Oil on canvas, gold leaf

83x60 cm

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Madonna 

2020, Oil on canvas, gold leaf

115x65 cm

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Madonna #8 

2020, Oil on canvas, gold leaf
71x53 cm

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Madonnas on Board
מדונות על הקרשים 

2021, Oil on building board, gold leaf

190x10x4.5 cm

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Madonna (head) #10 

2021, polymeric plaster, birch plywood, golden metal leaf, 45x38x12 cm

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Madonna (head) #2 

2021, polymeric plaster, birch plywood, golden metal leaf, 45x38x15 cm

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Madonna (head) #11 

2021, polymeric plaster, birch plywood, golden metal leaf, 45x38x9.5 cm

Madonnas 
Curator: Dina Yakerson

Noa Arad Yairi's solo exhibition, Madonnas, presents 12 sculptures of women (and one man) in different positions. The sculptures were inspired by women Arad Yairi had placed in various poses expressing their individuality, and are also based on famous scenes from art history.


The first in the series was The Madonna of the Toilets, a site-specific work made for an alcove over a water cistern at Hamiffal, a unique Jerusalem cultural center. The entire series was born from the single sculpture of the Madonna in the cramped position. The sculpture was based on Aphrodite's pose in Botticelli's canonical piece Aphrodite Rising from the Sea, which in Arad Yairi's hands had turned into the clenched position of a woman who needs to pee. And so arose the idea to mix high with the low — between artistic canon and ordinary and mundane.


The initial idea has been to create 12 Madonnas, a typological-theological number that alludes to the 12 Apostles in the New Testament. Each Madonna is captured in a moment neither particularly attractive nor sacred; an essentially casual, non-defining moment — while breastfeeding, sewing, changing diapers, self-pleasuring, sniffing an armpit, and more. In all these moments, Arad Yairi is telling us, these particular women and women in general are still a symbol of beauty and sacredness. By the ironic use of the Holy Virgin's image, Arad Yairi returns glory to the gutters, to the temporal and the sordid, to the everyday. 


While working on the series, the artist relied on various art-historical references to direct her female friends, who served as both muses and models. One of the works, in which the figure stands in an attack position, is based on a painting by the Renaissance artist Artemisia Gentileschi, Susannah and the Elders, depicting a famous theme in art history: Susannah is defending herself against the lecherous elders who threaten to rape her. Arad Yairi has linked this recurring theme to the concrete biography of the model, a martial arts specialist. Thus, Susannah's defensive posture becomes an attack position; the passivity and helplessness of the original character turn into active, self-sovereignty and power. The universal image is united with the concrete, biographical story — it's both Everywoman and that particular woman and her unique story. 


Another Madonna is reclining, with cuts showing on her bare back. This work is based on a historical incident in which a suffrage activist, Mary Richardson, disfigured the famous painting by Velasquez, Venus at her Mirror (also called Rokeby Venus). Richardson argued that it was an act of protest against the imprisonment of another political activist and a reaction of outrage at the portrayal of nude women in the arts. Arad Yairi presents a similar position, the cuts on the Madonna's back being the link between past and present. The Reference to a political/historical event from 1914 raises the question: What has changed since then? What struggles are still relevant in the 21st century? 


One extraordinary Madonna is masculine and wears a dress. The model was a man who had asked the artist to sculpt him. Arad Yairi gladly accepted his request and decided to sculpt him as a Madonna. The gender-bending effect created here provides a humorous wink that lightens up the entire series, yet it raises current issues. The work resonates with the spirit of our times and reminds us of gender fluidity, which opposes the binary perceptions and the dichotomic representations that have prevailed in culture and art in the past.

 
In addition to the sculptures, Arad Yairi has also made a series of paintings that remind us of saints paintings in churches. Several of the painted Madonnas follow the sculpted ones and some are entirely different. When the paintings are placed together, they suggest the iconostasis, a wall separating the central space of a church from the altar area, which holds many icons and scenes from the life of Christ. The paintings echo the sculptures and show us another aspect of Arad Yairi's work, and so the exhibition shifts between two-and three-dimensionality. 


Three reliefs with golden halos are also on display. The art of relief, which is not very common today, combines the two mediums of sculpture and painting. Apparently, this technique brings to mind art history, especially Donatello's famous reliefs, while also alluding to the Holy Trinity and the image of crucified Christ alongside the two thieves. 


In the afterword to the 1974 translation of The Hearing Trumpet, a book by Leonora Carrington, a feminist artist and writer, Olga Tokarchuk, has written:


“I consider Goddesshood to be womanhood deepened and expanded by the manifold treasures of culture and nature. The Goddess is a powerful archetype, and her very existence is pure provocation to a patriarchal structure. No wonder that in many parts of the world women are made to cover their faces and bodies. Women’s physiology—which would seem to be the most natural thing in the world, like their corporeality—is always a problem, something not to be discussed. Civilizations might be described by the mechanisms they have invented and implemented to control Goddesshood.
When womanhood demands what it is owed—recognition of its strength and power, of its very Goddesshood—it is banished to the cellar, imprisoned in the dungeon. Deprived of contact with consciousness, it loses its ability to speak.”

 
The repressed corporeality of which Tokarchuk speaks, the feminine physiology imprisoned in the cellars, is represented in the works of Arad Yairi by matter itself. The feminine body and the sculptural substance merge and speak of what is still considered taboo: a woman breastfeeding, defecating, or pleasuring herself. The excluded physiological positions of the woman's body intersect with the concept of sacredness and goddesshood, which, by definition, pushes the body off to the side. Holy Mary gave birth to Jesus without indulging in the lust of the flesh. She is the only woman embodied in flesh and blood who, at the same time, is devoid of physical traits. In most monotheistic religions, the body is perceived as sinful and impure, and so her goddesshood derives from the suppression of her body and sexuality to the point of creating a myth of conception without intercourse. 


By means of the plot and the shaping of the old and eccentric characters in the Hearing Trumpet, Carrington has challenged the social and patriarchal mores of the 1970s. Like her, Arad- Yairi's Madonnas give the viewer the finger, smell their armpits, and even pleasure themselves, contesting the consensus of ideal beauty in 2021. It appears that the artist is presenting her critical standpoint through the historical context established between the canonical European art of the Renaissance and our times. However, the sculptures and paintings of Arad Yairi are not free of irony and self-humor, allowing a fresh look at the same old questions regarding the definitions of beauty, women's sexuality, sacredness, and everything in between. 


Most of all, this series takes us back to the body. The experience of strolling through the exhibition is physical. The three-dimensional works are displayed at different levels, spreading through the gallery. Viewers must walk around the sculptures, discovering new details from the different perspectives of their own bodies. 


Madonnas invites visitors to wander through the church of physicality, corporeality, and contemplate the sacredness unveiled by these ordinary moments — through the stench of the armpit.

[1]Olga Tokarczuk, "Eccentricity as Feminism", The Paris Review, January 25, 2021, np, theparisreview.org, access 23.11.2021

          https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2021/01/25/eccentricity-as-feminism