Assaf Gruber


Assaf Gruber

Work from his oeuvre.

“There’s a scene in the 1988 film Cocktail where big-dreaming bartender Brian Flanagan, played by Tom Cruise, is sitting with the table-bussing artist Jordan Mooney, played by Elisabeth Shue, in an idyllic Jamaican setting. Flanagan picks up a drink umbrella and muses, ‘You know there’s a guy who makes these. The guy’s a millionaire.’ ‘What about the guy who makes these?’ Mooney asks, picking up an ashtray. ‘And what about these plastic things on the end of laces?’ queries Flanagan. ‘It’s probably got one of those weird names, too, like, erm, ‘‘flugelbinder’’,’ Mooney shoots back. ‘We sit here, surrounded by millionaires,’ Flanagan rues. ‘You rack your brains day and night trying to come up with a money-making scheme and some guy corners the flugelbinder market.’

This clip is #41 in an ongoing project by Assaf Gruber, ‘Studies in Sculpture’, which he began in 2004. The series is an expanding archive of scenes from famous movies – mainly American, mainly from the late 1980s – that Gruber recalls watching as a child growing up in Tel Aviv. Each clip contains an unintended reference to art-making in general or sculpture specifically – the artist’s primary medium. The project forms a kind of visual dictionary; a compendium of key scenes, pithy mantras and unintentional moments of artistic lucidity from Hollywood stars, which the artist then shows in varying compilations. We see exaggerated versions of various performance-art clichés: Arnold Schwarzenegger lifts a car to a 45-degree angle to turn off an alarm in Twins (1988); Roseanne Barr deftly rigs up incendiary devices to burn down her philandering husband’s house in She-Devil (1989); Michael Douglas crazily saws off the heels of his wife’s stilettos in The War of the Roses (1989). These scenes are funny, but not just. The can-do capitalism and go-get-’em attitude of the era – Flanagan’s quest for his own bar, Cocktails & Dreams, for example – acts as a cautionary counterpoint to Gruber’s witty research. Gruber is interested in what it means for an artist to ‘make work’. This line of enquiry is about negotiating the intransigent politics that a young artist finds himself caught up in, as an entrepreneur and producer on the one hand, a researcher and student on the other. Artists, just like Flanagan, are searching for their flugelbinder moment.

Though he considers himself a sculptor, Gruber’s interest in objects is influenced by elements borrowed from performance. As in ‘Studies in Sculpture’, video clips, GIFS and their gestures and movements play an integral role. Clips are embedded in his sculptures or function as sculptures themselves, often presented on plinths. The gif as readymade brings both depth of cultural meaning and breadth of context: its register and function is by now familiar but, at the same time, stripped of a narrative outside of the highlighted moment, its endless repetition allows for concentrated reflection.” – Paul Teasdale, Frieze Magazine

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