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Avner Ben-Gal,ohne Titel, 2005,
Deutsche Bank Collection
Courtesy of the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Much of Ben Gal’s work contains an internal and often deviant sense of pleasure. This is especially true in drawings included in the Deutsche Bank Collection, such as Monkey in Bath, 2005 and Untitled, 2005, where the animals, devious and up to no good, are clearly scheming. One monkey is wearing an eye-patch — a frequent Ben Gal accessory. But, unlike the animals in Laura Owens’ work that are usually symbolic, Ben Gal’s animals have nearly human qualities. They are empathetic, self-involved, easily bemused, and yet disturbingly evil. As Ben Gal puts it: "There’s a darkness to these animals."

Avner Ben-Gal, Who's next, 2002
Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami Gallery, New York

Despite the fact that there’s no lack of doom and gloom in Ben Gal’s paintings, there’s also an incredible luminosity, especially in the more abstract landscapes. As in Public Phone, Ben Gal’s work is often painted in dulled-down colors, except for an occasional punch of red or deep black like in Tsunami. Ben Gal paints with loose, wash-like brushstrokes that are playful, and yet also languid.

His way of working recalls a kinship with painters like Luc Tuymans, Rita Ackerman, and the fluid style of Eric Fischl’s monotypes, all of whom paint with a rhythmic and loose hand. While Tuymans accomplishes paintings in less than 12 hours and works on drawings for months, Ben Gal speeds through drawings, spending extended periods of time developing his acrylic paintings that are later organized as installations.

Avner Ben-Gal, Eve of Destruction 8, 2000-2001
Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami Gallery, New York

Avner Ben-Gal, Party Favors,2001
Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami Gallery, New York

Ben Gal is also deeply attracted to Raymond Pettibon’s comic musings. Pettibon’s drawing, No Title (Is It Real) from 2001 bears a striking similarity to Ben Gal’s drawing style, humor, and sting. As Ben Gal told me: "The work is about sequences, but I’m interested in a broken language." This "broken language" is embedded in his depictions of broken people and broken landscapes. In creating a world that celebrates trouble and disaster, Ben Gal not only spotlights the misfit, but manages to shift our understanding of the marginal from something we do not choose to see to something we see at full blast.

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