Chicago Global Artist: Tel Aviv photographer and sculptor Assaf Evron

Artist says moving to Chicago felt like shifting from ‘6th to 3rd gear’

October 3, 2013

Israeli artist Assaf Evron’s arrival in Chicago came about largely by chance.

He said he wanted to do his MFA in the United States, but he was trying to avoid going to New York, the “default Israeli artist thing.”

While doing a residency in Richmond, Va., he made a trip to see friends here in Chicago, saw the city and the School of the Art Institute, and was sold.

Three years later, Evron has not one but two shows opening this weekend. He’s the latest artist to produce a bumper sticker for the mobile art exhibition Trunk Show. And he has a sculpture in A Study in Midwestern Appropriation, a new group show opening Sunday at the Hyde Park Art Center.

Still, Evron says moving from Tel Aviv to Chicago was a challenge, one he likens to “moving from sixth gear to third gear.”

“At the beginning I think it was kind of boredom, but boredom in the good way,” said Evron. “Because boredom makes you dig deeper, and be more creative, and create new excitement.”

Evron said the biggest excitement came from the sense of distance he felt in Chicago. In part that was due to the changed physical landscape, one he didn’t feel entirely comfortable photographing.

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“Because I’m a foreigner I don’t have the intimacy with the environment,” said Evron. “So I started to develop a studio practice, which opened so many different directions for me.”

That move in turn allowed Evron to feel liberated from what he’d done before.

“In Israel I was very much doing photographic work,” said Evron. “Here I could break expectations and make more sculptural and conceptual work.”

The works in both of Evron’s shows this weekend reflect that shift. For Midwestern Appropriation, Evron re-made a wall ornament that’s on display in the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv. The three-triangle stone design of the original is supposed to signify the pyramids. But Evron turned to something a little closer to hand,  common split-face block, a material familiar to anyone who witnessed Chicago’s condo explosion in the early oughts.

Trunk Show involved something more formal. Each month curators Raven Falquez Munsell and Jesse Malmed ask one artist to design a bumper sticker for their 1999 Ford Taurus. Evron said doing something political or reactive, the typical terrain of the bumper sticker, didn’t feel right in Chicago. So he created an abstract design, using halftone gradients, that plays with the resemblance between the Taurus car symbol and the planet Saturn.

Though politics remain at a distance in Evron’s work, he says they’re not completely absent, if only because of the way he reflects on and engages the specific materials and context of the place he works in.

“Art about the Occupation it’s not very interesting to me,” said Evron. “But the political discussion of a place is in your work whether you want it or not, because that’s the environment in which it is made.”

Evron said he’s not finished working in Chicago, even though he completed his MFA this year.

“Chicago has been a great influence on my work,” said Evron. “I want to use this momentum to generate as much work as I can.”

Trunk Show is in Chicago’s Eckart Park Sunday from 1-3 p.m.

A Study in Midwestern Appropriation opens at the Hyde Park Art Center Sunday from 3-5 p.m.

Alison Cuddy is WBEZ’s Arts and Culture reporter and co-hosts the WBEZ podcasts Changing Channels and Strange Brews. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram