David Kutz – Arad Portrait Project

Exhibition Dates: April 27 – May 22, 2022

These pictures were made in the spring of 2020 when I spent three weeks as an artist in residence at the Arad Contemporary Art Center. For some time, my research and practice has been centered on cultural landscape, that being chorology, the study of the interactions between people and place, or how a place effects people and vice versa.  

Modern day Arad is a Development Town, designed and built to accommodate the 1950’s rush of new immigrants to Israel. It began to be occupied after the initial construction cycle in 1962. As I researched this place, I began to think about how the people of the ancient city of Arad, now an archeological site (Tel Arad), some ten kilometers away from the modern town, witnessed the Jewish diaspora after the fall of the First Temple, 587 BCE. I hadn’t really thought before about how Israeli is an extraordinarily culturally diverse country and how that diversity happened due to Jews returning to the Land of Israel after centuries of worldwide relocation. 

Whenever I do an artist’s residency, I try to find an experimental way to push myself out of the patterns of my earlier work, which have been predominately urban landscape. People do populate my cultural landscapes, but are seen from a distance without any direct interactions or interference. They are simply occupying the stage settings of the urban scenes I frame. 

It has been a long while since I did formal portraiture and I decided that would be a way for me to visually interrogating the ethnic diversity of Arad. I networked with the local arts center to see how many different families I could find, seeking the greatest possible ethnic diversity. And, I found wonderfully cooperative families. Since one can never entirely break away from past work, I felt compelled to also photograph the building where each portrait subject lived. 

Once back in my studio in Brooklyn, as I considered the ”catch of the day”, it became clear that some of the portraits were stronger than their associated exterior pictures, and vice versa.  This generated the thought of making these pictures as diptychs. By differing the scale, I could emphasize the people in one work and their homes in others. 

The text is included to provide a snippet of biographical information and to bolster the understanding that each picture includes ethnically different people.

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