Rinse and Hold, 2024

(Painting about old me, 205 x 44.5 x 7 cm; Painting about geometric abstraction in Latin America or my dad, 165 x 158 x 14 cm; Painting about landscape painting, 117.5 x 239 x 14 cm; Painting about beauty, 203 x 63.5 x 14 cm; Red Square, 204 x 100.5 x 18 cm; Painting about life drawing, 41 x 60 x 7 cm)

Revolutions per minute in physics is the angular rotation of an element that spins consequently to its applied force. By means of the centrifugal action of the machine that enables clothes to wash up automatically, we don’t actively have to engage in the process of this particular productivity. Thus, in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety and pressures of life, we can put a bunch of clothing separated by fabric and colour into the wash and see the work unfold while we wait in silence. Sometimes, this productive activity is the only thing that can calm us down. Much like a train or an airplane, the machine is carrying out the action we simultaneously conduct with it. After the cycle is done, the clothes are rinsed and the moisture evaporates out, the phosphoric breathing of new life in.

The last time I wrote about Isabella’s work in 2022, we spoke about the petrification of a moment in time through her use of resin and everyday bathroom appliances. A door handle at the time was suggesting her endeavour into the vast world of doors and windows, which she is now bringing to life in this solo exhibition at ZÉRUÌ, Isabella has worked throughout time in solidifying and exposing the intimacy of domestic habits, through precise and simple gestures like hanging underwear or used clothing on a water faucet, freezing up a moment in time that suggests so much: intimacy and exposure, constraint and expression, sculpture and observation. In this exhibition, Isabella presents six new works that stem from the language of windows and doors into the abstract world of colour. Each door or window reveals different pieces of personal and borrowed clothing, illustrating the contraposition between a found object and an object to be found.

Parallel to Malevich’s non-objectivity, which is “the death of the object of art”, Isabella revives the object but also annihilates it. She reuses misfitted, misshapen or simply discarded doors from homes and reappropriates them as frames to a swirl of colour that resist proximity. Much like Heidi Bucher’s hanging latex house reproductions, Isabella Benshimol’s practice is about the body. The sweatiness of it, the absence of it and the stillness of it. We want to look inside these monumental apparatuses, open the doors and take a peak, but the cloudiness reveals the secret that is the painting itself, untouchable and impenetrable.

A window or door is a place of threshold, but when we consider these works as paintings, the objects become totems – a symbol for the synchronicity of two opposing forces acting on each other. There are canonised and recognisable motifs in the history of painting that Benshimol references, like “Painting about landscape painting” (2024), the biggest work in the exhibition, meeting us from the farthest perspective in the space. For a landscape to exist, a distance between object and subject is necessary. In the work, the recognisable features of a large window carry the literal and figurative weight of not only the object itself, but the imagining of a view from the inside, clouded by the clothing like overgrown weeds. Clothing becomes a memory, vaguely representing what it once was. As memory goes, it lives only in the abstract. The only body left in this array of sculptures is the body standing in front of them.

When working with resin, a material that has been central to Benshimol’s work for years, the application period is distinct from the drying period. While waiting for the material to petrify, the resin can act autonomously -similar to the washing machine, enabling us to sit and watch the final result come to be. Rinse and Hold is an exhibition that alludes to the engaging yet unpredictable forces in new cycles, whether it be the cleansing ritual or the reutilisation of materials, paralleling the tumultuous self with the everlasting totems that remains silently among us.

Text by Philippa zu Knyphausen

Installation view at ZÉRUÌ, London