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Introduction

 

Asher's sculptures at the beginning of his "journey" are identified by the inclusion of ancient mythological characters and figures transported on wheeled vehicles. The wheel as an object in Asher's sculptures first appears with his move to Florida at the end of the '80s, symbolizing a personal journey that has distanced him from his daughters, friends, and the surroundings of Caesarea.

Asher's work from the early '90s appears to bring the artist back to his inspirational days in Caesarea on the Mediterranean. His longing for the bay, the digs, marble statues, columns, and capitals, is very significant in the evolution of his maturing style. In many respects, Asher attempted to recreate his own private Caesarea in his Boca Raton studio. He surrounded himself with sculptures and images imbued with the character of the Greco-Roman civilization that he admired so much. But when appearing in Asher's sculptures these visual qualities do not emerge as forms unnaturally embedded in the work; instead, they gracefully express a sense of beauty and simplicity, embedded in a relaxed scenario.

Asher's interest in and connection to the classical archaeology of Caesarea, and his life among its ancient art and architecture and its submerged harbor, remained highly important, despite the 10,000 miles that separated him from these influences. As a result, emerging from Asher's studio are amazing sculptures controlled by a gallery of figures, objects, and symbols from the ancient world transformed by Asher's personal stamp of unending imagination.

The strength of Asher's sculptures comes from their simplified compositions, All the classically inspired characters are in continual movement. It is a vision of slow motion, placid and not belligerent. One can feel sadness in the movement of the figures. Asher's sculptures have neither discuss throwers nor marathon runners. The figures are captured in a gliding gesture as if moving from one place to another, a journey that is meaningful, yet simultaneously hesitant. There is no indication of anxiety nor fear. The bronze forms and shapes move through space peacefully and gently.

The Voyage

Asher's most outstanding sculpture from this period, made in the early '90s was The Voyage, a work composed on two levels. The bottom level indicates an underwater scene, a surroundings very familiar to the artist. The inclusion of sets of wheels and even the aquatic section of the work, are inserted to dramatize the issues of distance and transformation. The underwater journey is being led by swimming dolphins, an indication that Asher has brought with him bo Boca Raton the idealization of the creatures that he so adores and needs as partners to accompany him on his journey.

On the upper level 18 figures row a replica of an ancient boat. The body of the boat has iconic detailing such as the eye on the stem, a symbol used to protect the vessel and its personnel from the evil eye. The prow sports a Hamsa (hand), a Middle Eastern graphic charm carried by the sailors to provide easy passage and good fortune. Along both sides of the boat a frieze of fish has been carved, while the hull is supported by ancient trailers pulled by teams of oxen and horses. The drovers are heroes from Asher's imagination.

The rhythmic succession of the 18 oars, viewed from a frontal position, provide the work with a dimensional perspective that creates a feeling of unbridled power. At the same time, the wheels and the animals present the spectator with a contrasting poetry that speaks of gliding forward on a peaceful journey. Standing erect above this unusual, intricate and harmonious sculpture of a mythological voyage, Asher has rooted a single figure - a form suggesting the artist himself. In his right hand he holds a bird symbolic of a peace offering, brotherhood, and humanity. He uses his left hand as a paddle swaying gently, to signal the rowers to reduce speed, suggesting a wish to stop time or reverse its course.

In and interview conducted after the sculpture was completed, Asher described his personal journey as a journey forward to the past, to another period, another civilization, filled with simplicity, tranquility, and increased kindness.

The streaming flow in The Voyage, indicated by the simplicity of the compositional movement, and the essential sculptural elements expressed on both its levels, conceal the technical difficulties of the work from the viewer. The Voyage was extremely complicated to compose and to put together from a technical point of view, due to the high number of sculpted figures and non-figurative elements. Each rower is a distinct personality, different from his partner and the rest of the crew. However, because the sculpture is perfectly crafted, the completed scene appears to be simple and obvious. It is the contradiction of intricacy versus simplicity that moves one to feel great admiration for the work and respect for the artist.

Asher does not cut corners. He does everything possible to achieve what he wants to achieve in his sculptures, a dedication that leads, according to his vision, to pure perfection. Because of his unwavering positive attitude, Asher's sculptures breathe a life of their own, a life of matter and soul.

The Lovers Journey

The Lover's Journey is another important sculpture from this period. The Lover's Journey is a monumental bronze created in 1992, showing a woman riding a horse while extending her hand to a man walking behind her. He in turn gestures with one hand towards her while holding a bird in his other hand. The space between the fingers of the male figure and the fingers of the woman creates a magnetic tension - and ersatz electrified field of the almost touched. Both the horse and the human couple are not sculpted with anatomical correctness, but are perfectly defined to fit into Asher's established and recognized style. The gentle elongation of all the forms, animate and inanimate, is identifiable within the iconographic realm of Asher's work and style.

Both the horse and the male figure are carved to project a sense of walking in a conspicuously gentle, slow moving manner. Like The Voyage, this sculpture also has hidden symbols of Asher's personal journey. The tempo of the steps are slow and hesitant, as the woman looks backwards towards the male figure her hair blowing in the wind and a gesture of love.

The four characters in this composition - woman, man, horse, and bird - are elongated and graceful, and fit flawlessly into Asher's developed style. Although his knowledge of anatomy is evident in his work, he alters the forms and changes their proportions to remake his heroes and heroines into unique personas.

In this particular work the horse's neck is exaggerated, stretched much longer than that resembling a real hors. However, Asher convinces the viewer that the anatomical change is perfectly in line with how a horse should look. He also uses a similar method to exaggerate the legs of the figures as he does with their unnaturally long necks. The bird, held in an outstretched hand, connotes a gift that suggests "a peace offering." The graceful proportions of the gentle bird form is altered by an elongated neck and a rolling curvilinear body. This large-scale bronze has been exhibited in several traveling shows of Asher's monumental sculptures.

Above All is all Above (detail), 2001. Bronze, edition of 6, 41x30x10.5in. The Gift of Nature (detail), 1990. Bronze, 54x28x19in. The Lover's Journey (detail), 1992. Bronze, edition of 7, 114x120x100in.
     

 

Journey to the New

As a result of a competition held in 1993, Asher was commissioned to create a monumental sculpture that he called Journey to the New and was completed in 1995. The idea behind the work was to immortalize the journey of the Russian and Ethiopian Jews from their countries of origins to their new homes. The sculpture depicts the journey of a family: A mother, father, child, and an infant. The mother, at the center of the family, carries the infant with her left arm and holds a bird in the palm of her right hand. She walks at the side of her husband, who with his left hand, points in the direction of the family journey. Although Asher's recognizable style of elongated gentle figures can strongly affect the viewer, it is obvious that in this monumental work he has carved and polished his figures with fuller bodies and muscular definition. Also, the facial features are more detailed and expressive. The woman's hair flows in the wind. The child holds his mother's right arm with his left hand and a blanket in his right.

The figures in this monumental sculpture are nude. Yet nudity in Asher's work, as indicated in all his sculptures of this period, is neither forceful nor erotic. The peaceful aura and narrative ease that Journey to the New project gets high marks because the nudity as a visual metaphor lend credence to the basic concepts Asher attempts to extrapolate.

The blanket in the child's hand symbolizes the minimal amount of possessions the family has been able to transport on this journey. The cadence of the figures' steps are deliberate, a slow and measured pace similar to the strides in Asher's other sculptures. The slow movement expresses the peaceful journey as they walk hesitantly toward a new future. The bird sitting on the mother's hand suggests, as witnessed in other Asher sculptures, that this family unity pronounces "We have come in peace."

 

 

Batsheva

At the end of the 1990s Asher created a 15 foot high monumental sculpture entitled Batsheva. Asher's style remained unchanged. His anatomical interpretations of the woman figure kept their standard look highlighted by the recognizable gentle curve of the back. The wind gently lifts and waves her hair backward set on a torso that has become more full and fleshier. Hair flowing in the wind has become a recurring and recognizable element in Asher's work. But the most dramatic element in this sculpture are Batsheva's features. Her face is so remarkably attractive that, like the biblical King David, one finds oneself powerless to turn away form her beauty. Asher named the sculpture as a companion piece of Michelangelo's David, to correspond to the biblical story of David and Bat Sheva.

 

 

Facial Expression

Asher has been working for many years in an effort to imbue the facial expressions of his subjects with an approximation of soul. His faces evolved from abstract forms through the reductive shapes of prehistoric animalistic statuettes to the serenely perfect faces of his sculptures Batsheva and Corina.

Asher has come full circle from the faces he created at the end of the '60s to those he created in the beginning of the year 2000. He went from abstraction to sculptures with fully perfected facial details that are astonishingly beautiful, a pictorial manner he could not confront for a long period of time.

 
2nd century Roman marble sculpture at the Ruins of Caesarea.
 
Woman with Horse, 1991. Bronze, edition of 7, 19x26x8in.
 
Boating in Caesarea Bay. Silk and oil paint on canvas, 30x50in. Asher's inspiration for The Voyage Sculpture.
 
Gift of Nature (detail), 1990. Bronze, 54x28x19in.
 
The Voyage, 1993. Bronze, edition of 6, 55x87x31in.
 
The Voyage (detail), 1993. Bronze, edition of 6, 55x87x31in.
 
Hamsa (hand), detail from The Voyage, historic.
 
"Eye," Protector from the Evil Eye, detail from the Voyage.
 
A single Figure - part of The Voyage (detail)
 
The Hull is pulled by a team of oxen - The Voyage (detail)
 
The Hull is pulled by a team of horses - The Voyage (detail)
 
The Lover's Journey, 1992. Bronze, edition of 7, 114x120x100in.
 
The Lover's Journey, 1992. Bronze, 114x120x100in at Oyster Bay, Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Weiss.
 
Journey to the New, 1994-1995. Bronze 15x12x8ft. Palm Beach Airport, Florida.
 
Journey to the New (detail), 1994-1995. Bronze, 15x12x8ft.
 
Journey to the New (detail), 1994-1995. Bronze, 15x12x8ft. Male figure.
 
Batsheva (detail), 1999. Clay, 155x84x43in. Asher's Studio, Florida.
 
Bat Sheva (detail), 2000. Bronze, 155x84x43in.
 
Bat Sheva (detail), 2000. Bronze, 155x84x43in.
Eve and the Serpent I (detail-head), 1973, Plaster, 22in. The Chatting Woman (detail-head), 1991. Bronze, set of 6, edition of 7, 18x6x7in. Pygmalion (detail-head), 2001. Bronze, edition of 6, 68x23x12in. Mona Bicci (detail-head), 2000. Bronze, edition 2 of 6, 79x24x26in. Cara-mia (detail-head), 2000. Bronze, edition of 6, 82x33x24in. Batsheva (detail-head), 1999. Bronze, edition of 3, 155x84x43in.
           

Above and Beyond

In 2001 Asher created Above and Beyond, a figurative sculpture comprising a father, mother, and a child, astride a mare. The family unit and the horse, look gently upwards towards the sky with an expression one could equate with a search for the utopia they believe exists.

Above and Beyond indicates a balance between gentleness and power of the senses. The figures are positioned with their heads pointed upward in a gesture that describes the act of praying and imploring, but not neglecting the psychological powers of asking and questioning.

A powerful unity is created by the upward movement of the compositional elements touched by an almost electrifying light that breaks through the heavens, providing an allegorical passage for all those who wish to take up the option of making the trip.

Above and Beyond also presents the sum total of Asher's sculptural concepts that are threaded through all periods of his oeuvre. The strength of his work is expressed by their compositional simplicity and the delicate balance maintained between the sculpted pieces. The dynamics of touch without touching, and a subjective closeness without physical interaction, create an invisible field of energy between the figures and their supporting elements. The gentleness of his volumetric figures and objects, tied to a specific sculptural formula, are the signatures of Asher's outstanding style.

The Female Figure

Additional recurring features include the extreme movement of this female figure pelvic areas backwards in an expression of erotic defiance of as a demonstration of a woman's naturally comfortable body position. In Asher's most recent sculpture one may notice differences on the detailing of the figure's feet and hands.

 
Above all is All Above, 2001. Bronze, edition of 6, 41x31x10.5in.
 
 
 
Batsheva (detail-pelvic area), 1999. Bronze, edition of 3, 155x84x43in. Woman of Melody (detail-pelvic area), 1994. Bronze, edition of 7, 108x45x60in. Karena (detail-pelvic area), 1999. Bronze, edition of 6, 75.5x20x16.5in. Petite Goddess (detail-pelvic area), 2000. Bronze, edition of 6, 28x9.5x7in. Lady of the Ark (detail-pelvic area), 1990. Bronze, edition of 3, 90x61x29in.
         

Birds

Many of Asher's sculptures include birds. To the question, what is the significance of the bird in his work, Asher provides several answers. The bird (i.e. dove) is a symbol of peace, tranquility, and of freedom. The bird motif in his pieces also represent the unification of man and nature.

Throughout his childhood Asher had a penchant for nature in general and for birds and reptiles in particular. At the youth village he attended, he would climb trees to search for nests and birds, and when found was able to identify them by name. He was a true amateur ornithologist and even during a later period of his life, when he was an obsessive collector of Roman coins he found in Caesarea, he would clean and identify coins which contained ancient minted images of birds. This motivated Asher to use the bird as a symbol in many of his sculptures.

In Asher's sculptures birds are never caged. They are an integral part of nature and his art, and accept our existence as we accept and defend them. We tend to love them and try our best to project their innocence and survival. Perhaps Asher intended to declare that the one who carries the bird is innocent himself. He comes with peace and tranquility and goes with peace and tranquility.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Coin of Alexander III, 336-323 BC. Zeus holding Eagle. Asher's ancient coin collection. The Princess on the Boat (detail-Princess holding bird), 2000. Bronze, 52x66.5x11in. Journey to the New (detail-woman figure holding bird), 1995. Bronze, edition of 6, 15x12x8in. The Lover's Journey (detail-male figure holding bird), 1992. Bronze, 114x120x100in. Princess of Caesarea (detail-Princess holding bird), 1992. Bronze, 24x31x8in. Gift of Nature (detail-male figure holding bird), 1990. Bronze, edition of 3, 28x54x19in.
           

Wheels

Wheels in Asher's sculptures first began to appear when he came to Florida in the late '80s. The artist's journey to the United States and his distancing himself from a life among the ancient ruins of Caesarea, grafted a dramatic, strongly nostalgic branch onto his life. The wheel, therefore, is a metaphor for Asher's personal journey. It may also indicate a feeling of ambivalence, of living in a temporary situation. The journey to his new surroundings compounded by his leaving family and friends who remained behind, caused Asher to fly back in time to his dreams and for this he needed the wheels, and birds as well.

The wheels in Asher's sculptures have diverse shapes. They are never solid. Instead, their circumferences are calculated by a relevantly small number of spokes that originate from the vehicle's main axle. The wheels are not considered objects in their own right, but are there to provide the sculpture, and perhaps the sculptor, with the means to move back in time when the images awaken.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Woman's Journey II (detail-wheels), 1992. Bronze, edition of 1, 47x64x23in. Foundation of Love (detail-wheels), 1999. Bronze, edition of 6, 82x33x24in. The Woman's Journey II (detail-wheels), 1992. Bronze, edition of 1, 47x64x23in. Woman with Horse (detail-wheels), 1991. Bronze, edition of 7, 26x18x8in.
       

Creatures

There is a cabinet of creatures that inhabit Asher's iconographic dictionary. These images from his dream world act as coachmen or help transport his wagons.

Several of these figures are creatures from the sea that assume an important place in Asher's work - as well as in his life. His love for the ocean and its many and varied inhabitants, as well as his involvement with diving, underwater fishing and underwater archaeology have contributed added interest and substance to his bronzes. Marine elements such as a variety of fishes, boats, dolphins, turtles, and sea horses appear in many of Asher's works, all of which accompany his heroes on their journey to the past. To qualify them as attendees, these marine creatures occasionally take on anthropomorphic qualities.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Princess on the Boat (detail-marine elements), 2000. Bronze, 52x66.5x11in. The Goddess of the Sea (detail-marine elements), 1993. Bronze, 84x78x28in.
   
 
 
 
 
 
 

Almost surreal in their imagery, Asher places the head of a sea creature on a human body, or the head of a human on an animal body.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Foundation of Love (detail-bullhead on male figure), 1999, edition of 6. Bronze, 82x33x24in. Foundation of Love (detail-fish head on a woman's body), 1999, edition of 6. Bronze, 82x33x24in. The Voyage (detail-woman torso on a fish figure), 1993, edition of 6. Bronze, 55x87x31in.
     

By observing the photographs the ready might come to the conclusion that Asher wishes to share his thoughts with us, that every living thing, animal and human, living on land or in the sea or flying in the sky, are endowed with a soul. The strongest evidence of this idea is affirmed in the sculpture he calls the Woman's Journey.

Woman's Journey

Woman's Journey is cast from several independent units. On a wheeled platform pulled by horses, several women are created in a different stage of evolution. A horizontal female with the head of a fish, looks like she just emerged from the water in an attempt to prove the theory of evolution that claims life originated from the seas. This interesting sculpture once again transports the viewer into the sphere of Asher's imaginative journey. Technically speaking, the sculpture is very complex because it requires the final placement and permanent assembly of many different figures.

At the beginning of Asher's Journey Period, he had his own foundry where he cast the sculpture himself. This allowed him to get the best results, despite technological complexities.

Horses

Horses in Asher's work appear as very gentle and noble creatures, instilling in the viewer a sense of peace and tranquility. The fact that he repeatedly refers to the equine theme is indicative of Asher's obvious love for this animal. His horses never gallop or thunder through space; instead, he describes their movement in gentle and flowing terms. The horses in most compositions emerge with elongated frames with necks that are longer and less muscular than in reality - and very noble. Although the steeds' anatomical depictions and not zoologically correct, Asher has successfully created a perfect visual balance that causes the viewer to see the horse as a natural and realistic figure. One of the marvelous aspects of Asher's figurative forms is his ability to convince us that what he has created is what nature designed.

 

Andre Burton said, "A piece of art is valuable only if it has the reflection of the future mirrored in it." In a curious way, this quote expresses Asher's concepts of his art. Does the simplicity, the nature, the relaxed environments and an emotional return to the past expressed by Asher, stand in contrast with the reflection of the future? Hardly. The longing for the ideals embedded in past classical civilizations are the foundations upon which Asher's work reflects what he believes the future should be. This is the parallel between Burton's quote and Asher's art.

One may say that in his work, Asher inspires us to stop for a second, to think and ask ourselves why and to where we are running. He stimulates us to use our senses while we live through the experience of creation. He gives us the possibility to be able to see the color and the shape, to be able to smell and to hear, and to taste a unique flavor. If Asher helps us even a little bit to achieve some of it, we benefit. This is the form and substance of Itzik Asher's outstanding work.

Itzik Asher's bronze sculptures are noted for their unique characteristics form the very first sight. The viewer promptly identifies the elongated, elegant figures, that strive upward, and the universe replete with symbolic forms engulfing each of them. While the eye lingers, endeavoring to identify the form before it as a whole and at the same time grasp the interrelations between the various forms within the total sculptural system, the visual experience is supplemented by information cumulated through our acquaintance with ancient civilizations. The sculptures display deep traces of a formal culture, reinforcing the sense of a historical continuum invoked by the fascinating encounter with Asher's works. All these invite us on a journey in time, both personal and historical.

 
Woman's Journey I, 1993. Bronze, edition of 1, 47x64x23in.
 
The Woman's Journey II (detail-marine elements), 1992. Bronze, edition of 1, 47x64x23in.
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