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What does one who looks through a screen see? While one is covered, what can others, who are looking, see? The figures Zohar Fraiman (b. 1987 in Jerusalem) paints are covered under a white cloth. Underneath they hide unseen, unseeing. And the closer one looks, the less one sees too. Could those figures see us behind their white screens? Is there anyone under those screens at all?
Front or back, in or out – Fraiman keeps it dubious. She paints figures on wooden doors that open up to an altar triptych. In her Talal/ טלל* series of self built boxes, a number of fragile and intimate objects engage the viewer to follow a trail of images and incidents from one box to another. The outside of each box appears to be raw and blank, yet inside each work is an image that aims to fulfill the viewers curiosity after opening the box. The images inside each box are trapped unless revealed by the viewer, reflecting a trapped possessive spirit hidden within another body.
Those covered figures unfold to more. In the altar piece Tallit *(2014), three figures on the front unfold to a triptych presenting a great crowd in white, resembling waves carrying sea foam while breaking on shore. They seem to bend back and forth together according to a single tune, in a frozen eternal movement. We may animate them and bring them closer together while closing back the doors of the triptych. Then the all-over landscape painting infolds into three figures, as in an inversion of German romanticism, infolding the sea into the lonesome monk. This act is repeated in Untitled (Don’t See Us) (2014), even more abstractly. Don’t See Us calls to the song written by hip-hop band The Roots. Giving another painting of a covered crowd its title from The Roots, Float like Hovercrafts/Sting like Vaccinations (2014) shows the connection Fraiman makes between lyrics from these songs to the paintings content.
These enigmatic figures being portrayed by Fraiman seem genderless, as if the white fabrics infold sexuality. In the Jewish orthodox synagogue only men pray covered with a tallit, separate from women. But in Portrait of Grandmother Bugmann on her Wedding Day (2014) it is a woman who is covered from head to toe with a white fabric. Covered grandmother Bugmann reminds us of the bogeyman, she looks like that featureless ghost, yet she seems more vulnerable than frightening. Que viene el Coco (2014), hints at another painting, in which we finally face the bogeymen with several figures who unveil their faces. The faces, emerging behind the tallit through a vaginal fold, are red and demonic. And yet, after looking at Grandmother Bugmann covered up and demons exposing their faces, we stumble upon a pure white bride and a demonic red devil enfold into each other’s arms in Kiss (Avoiding Kiddushin Series) (2014). Is such a kiss enfolded under the white screen in Enfolded Kiss (2014)?
Fraiman engages the curious viewer with looking without seeing, whether she unfolds the unseen openly all over the canvas, or infolds it intimately into boxes suggesting secrets. The viewer looks, but doesn’t see. Seeing is restricted, out of bounds. Religiously, one mustn’t see the sacred. Morally, one shouldn’t look at the demonic. But under a cover of white purity a bogeyman may hide, and a demon shining in red may expose us to a moment of eery romance.
Infold Enfold Unfold Zohar Fraiman