In one of his initial “Fusionist’ works from 1969 “Classical Myth”… Shalom Neuman composed a metaphysical triptych where he most subtlety and elegantly laid out some of the precepts which would become the leitmotif of his visual opus. In this work with mystical portents; dimensions ethereally flow in and out of each other in perhaps a state of magical realism. Here we are presented with classical settings made by perspective but with two objects inroduced at what would seemingly be the forefront of our field of vision. Herein what would be a painted potted plant or standard wooden table in physical form in the next dimension is a three dimensional shape and in fooling the eye, it is not, for, there it is, the object. Thus the object (s) plays the role as if the locus at the very center of the work as it would be seen in fictive space by the subjects ln the painting and externally by the physical viewer as a continuation of the plastic space. Thus the composition enters the realm of the tangible so that the viewer goes deeper into the painting while simultaneously emerging from it.
However, the objects are not just found but determinedly chosen, determindly chosen found objects, for they represent the sculptural where the painting goes into the sculpture though seamlessly while pleasing the eye via the introduction of the objects which like the found objects of the Dadaists, Neo-Dadaists, and Neo-Neo-Dadaists are made sculptural by the theoretical intercession of the artist, though, here the artist’s intercession at the actual plastic intersection, as iit is meant to be as ic a point of inverted virtual reality; while simultaneously being a materialization of tbe theoretical thought processes of the practitioner.
The objects also act as the segue between the plastic and the quotidian , between two dimensions and three, and sculpture and painting, as a door of perception is opened. Where this segue occurs say at the leg of the table coming forth it is so sublime and unexpected; but, then remains so loud in its power that it is if that moment captured in the famed Canvas by Rene Magritte when the coal black locomotive comes speeding forward from within the out fireplace while blowing it’s own steam and smoke in the canvas “La Durée Poignardée” or “Time Transfixed” (1937).
The figures, the subjects in the painting are as is if in an out of body experience (not just in and you are in or out and you you are out but in and out) as clouds are overlaid in a diaphanous fashion and as such effect a mysterious other-world. The work reads Inversely, obversely, in reverse, and transposition in the tradition of articulating and balancing multiple reflections mastered by Diego Velasquez. The work also for this writer calls to mind the metaphysical works of another Velasquez, the Puerto Rican painter, Juan Ramon Velasquez, whose suggestions of transcendental and metaphysical occurrence are articulated in the sense of an audible whisper by the mysticism evoked in the appearance, disappearance, and reappearance of the human form.
Here the seemingly transposed illuminmed clouds are both filmically flowing and filling in Van Dyck like twilight or break of dawn enigmatic skies and become the wall paper of the interior surround. This then sets the stage for a suspended dream state which bespeaks the visual play of the Belgian surrealist artists Rene Magritte and Paul Delvaux. Herein seemingly a series of visual quatrains ensue as backwards facing the chateau beyond the moat a table in the center in the backdrop is mirrored in the perspectival forefront sentinel of the work in a fully realized physical form while the figures, exteriors, and interiors enter and re-enter upon themselves unfolding in a dissolution of the suggested tangible borders of differentiated space, then compounded by the turns of reflection but articulated over a greater expanse then in say Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas (1656) or Salvador Dali’s “Dalí Seen from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Externalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected by Six Real Mirrors” (1972-1973).
Once we get our heads out of the clouds it takes a while for the the picture to take hold and the dream to unfold. Is this a journey from light into darkness, or darkness into into light? And in the mix of races in the work’s dramatis personae is that also light into darkness and darkness into light? Does the world ever travel from darkness into light or remain in the in-between in a realm where open questions abound?
This is a work which was executed by a young painter who having moved to Israel from the still communist iron curtain Czechoslovakia and observed that the actual racial makeup of the Semitic peoples of the Holy land and their African neighbors all intermarried in the land of milk and honey, wondered of the actual racial identity of the Christian Holy family of Judaeo origins leading to the depiction of a Black Madonna in the inner sanctum here and the question of if Western painting rendered it all wrong or as what was once said of Salvador Dali ’s articulation of Jesus of Nazareth in his immensely popular work “The Sacrament of the Last Supper” (now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.) as being as if a depiction of a blonde haired blue eyed American quarterback. Indeed there is a Orientalism to this work. Inspect the carpets intricately painted like Claudio Bravo’s superb representations of Moroccan floor coverings.
While the work seems to be questioning the very nature of the Virgin birth –”The Immaculate Conception”- the figures here are engaged in suggestive rather than explicit action. Therein they mirror the questioning of potential religious fictions and possibilities. Therefore it is possible that the relationships between the man and woman who inhabit the work’s pictorial space in duplicate appearances being of different races in addition to the works qualities of inverting phenomena that the interracial allegorical intercourse led to the Black Madonna and white infant in the inner sanctum.. However the imagistic portrayal arising out of the scenario depicted is not that all in one and the same rather it arises and subsides. Per chance this is another turn on fusion an ode to human convergence… miscegenation. Moreover through the immaterial interplay of the work and the allegorical combination of people who echo and run in and out if each other as they do in and out of the architectural and astral spaces the work is a stage for posers posing, posing questions, with windows wide open ended...or as Francis Picabia pointed out “our heads are round so our thoughts can change directions”. So while this might not quite be the virgin mega-story what it does perhaps do is give lightness to the over-weightiness of religious historical myth laying upon our consciousness.
Then there is the chateau seen at the very back of the canvas which within a puzzle placement is malleable as it floats upon a chimerical surround. Here an idiomatic play upon the phenomenon of darkness into light. night into day or day into night as in Magritte’s much, celebrated suite ” The Empire of Light (L’empire Lumieres 1947-1965)” takes hold. This painting is also as if a disembodied embodied turn style of pictorial action. Indeed it is the intricate geometry the artist employed which creates the architectural framework of the arena for such lofty questions to be entertained in a dream house of his own making.. "Une Maison de Rêve de sa Propre Fabrication."
°Finally this work is a multi rectangle extravaganza which led grandly into Neuman’s own later fusionism events which are truly each a three ring exponential sensory synaestetic circus.
Image © Lee Klein