Friday, 04 April 2003


The New York Times



Adi Nes
Jack Shainman Gallery
513 West 20th Street, Chelsea
Through April 12


Adi Nes, an Israeli photographer, is making his New York solo debut here. But one of his pictures appeared all over the city a few years ago in advertisements for an exhibition of new art from Israel at the Jewish Museum. It was an image of a bare-chested young man in combat boots, army fatigues and a yarmulke, flexing his muscles in front of a tent pitched in desert sand.


The photographs here pick up where that one left off, with pictures of more young soldiers in Israeli army uniforms. Some nap together, leaning against each other. One soldier dresses a fallen companion's wounds. Another, supported by colleagues, shimmies up a pole as if to place a victory flag. But things aren't quite right. There is no flag; and the wound is being treated, or created, with nailpolish and makeup. In fact, Mr. Nes staged all his tableaus for the camera with actor-models. A result is a homoerotic dream of military life, interspersed with staged scenes of civilian violence: three men attack another man in an apparent rape; women gather around a young man lying unconscious in the street.


In part, the pictures reflect aspects of Mr. Nes's own outsider status in Israel, as a child of Kurdish and Iranian immigrants, and a gay man. They are also shrewd sendups of the pervasive, macho military presence in Israeli life. (Mr. Nes, like most Israeli men and women, spent three years in the army.) And through an accident of timing, they have particular resonance at present, in the disjunction they suggest between an air-brushed fantasy of war as a heroic adventure and the reality that shows up in the news every day.