Itamar Freed: Birds of Paradise

Photographed by Ami Erlich

ITAMAR FREED / Birds of Paradise

September 4 – October 18, 2014

Opening reception: Thursday, September 4, 8 pm

The spheres in which the photography of the” Birds of Paradise” series takes place, in Itamar Freed’s first solo exhibition, are spheres hidden from the eye and laden with details – shrubbery grown wild at the roadsides, human figures in dramatic positions and sculptural gestures, various birds whose deceiving presence at first glance appears to be natural, but on further examination challenges that. All these correspond with an aesthetics that draws upon a return to the painting classics of art history, seeking to create for it a kind of contemporary photographic variation. Through the use of color, natural illumination at its extremes – sunset and sunrise, via open composition and multiple vanishing points that simultaneously draw the observer’s eye to different foci of various events, the borders between dream and wakening are blurred, the birds – some of which are live and some preserved – add a metaphysical dimension, which completes the photographic ambience that exists as if in a threshold zone, beyond the bounds of specific time and place.

The images in the exhibition require the observer to create a new identity for them, one that depends on the view, an identity based neither on memories nor past impressions, but that exists here and now, as revealed anew in the photograph. The uses of stuffed animals have accelerated in contemporary art. Its comeback stems from disappointment in the uniformity of mass commercial production, as opposed to the stuffed animal which is a nostalgic object that suggests secrets. With a stuffed animal it is impossible to distinguish between the animal and art – “daydreams and animal hides are melded together to create a spectacle that erases its own artificiality; we need the illusion, and the dimension of fakery turns it into something nearly true,” states culture researcher Rachel Poliquin.

‘Maximal vitality, as opposed to a comprehensive sense of death’ – all life is built from these two tendencies according to Freud:  Building as opposed to destruction, increasing the ability to bear energy and complexity, as opposed to a zero level of sensitivity and stimulation, tendencies that are summarized under the heading ‘Eros and the death drive.’ In Greek mythology Orpheus sets out to bring back his departed love, Eurydice, from the Netherworld. He goes forth on a journey in which life and death are interchanged, leading him astray just like hope and despair. Freed’s works emphasize and ponder that same human yearning. The stuffed animal is a type of memento, representing loss.

Freed asks questions about the ability of the photography medium to preserve, to freeze, to grasp life, to seize time by the throat. Taxidermy stops time, but as in the actions of photography, despite the fact of extinction and disintegration, decomposition does not occur. Thanks to photography, what has ended and passed away, those who are no longer with us, are not far from the eye, do not become forgotten, but rather their presence remains fully visual. Nevertheless, embalming, like photography, creates a constant, frequent reminder of absence and yearning, of disintegration and cessation. The birds in the photographs are a symbol of eternal life, and challenge the power of gravity, of the present and of death.

Yham Hameiri, September 2014


Itamar Freed, 1987, New York, holds a degree in Art from the Photography Department at Bezalel. He won the 2012 Epson prize for excellence in the art of photography. Freed has participated in several group exhibitions, including the 2014 International Photography Festival in Israel, “Objects” at the Hallalit Gallery along with Uri Gershuni and Adi Nes, curated by Daniel Tsal, and “Surface Currents” at Feinberg Projects Gallery.