The work of Adi Nes encircles one main issue - identity. Both in the first series of photographs, The Soldiers series, as well as in the second, The Boys series, the preoccupation with male identity and with the Israeli identity is prominent. Thus, the artist enables us to sneak a glimpse into the private world of someone living in the Israeli reality that is constantly examining its identity.
The first glance into the work of Adi Nes might fool you. This is not the case of folklore photographs depicting the experience of soldiers or of dark skin boys in a deprived neighborhood. Much energy is invested in the production and in meticulous and precise staging of every detail in the scenes that are often driven from the history of art or from famous photographs that are embedded in the collective memory.
Adi Nes’ choice of topics is not incidental; his work always depicts a masculine world in a homoerotic-saturated atmosphere. In the smoke-engulfed soldiers’ camaraderie the ring of smoke turns into a wedding band but also insinuates penetration in a sexual context.
Another picture reconstructs the scene of raising a flag known also from the picture of the American photographer Joe Rosenthal Old Glory Goes Up On Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima; similar scenes could be seen also in the wars of Israel. In the work of Adi Nes’ the flag vanished. The soldiers seem to continue employing themselves in a routine flag raising although the flag is gone. Cultural icons are being reconstructed time and again. The flag raising is erecting a male phallic structure while ridiculing the impulse of the male, whenever he might be, for purposeless conquests.
The Israeli reality of a constant war and attacks of terrorism appears in Nes’ photographs in the internal layer and not on the surface. The figures are depicted in atmosphere of sadness and compassion. The nap of soldiers on the bus is not innocent, and the heavy shading insinuates pending death (other photographs of a sleeping soldier brings to mind Jacques-Luis David’s Marat Assassinated). Death is obliquely implied in the picture entitled “With No Title”, in which soldiers are eating, albeit one cannot escape the terrifying association with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper. The picture is laden with significant details: the thorny bush the photographer has planted behind the head of the soldier in the center; the red syrup in the jar instead of wine, the torn bread bag, a half eaten apple and the holes in the wall implying on shootings in the past and maybe those yet to come. One soldier in the picture is superfluous; he looks like a passerby who has passed the place prior to the decisive moment but his presence teaches also about the tragedy looming over him and over his companions. That presence of that soldier contributes to the composition of the reconstructing Leonardo’s Last Supper. He is directing his glance beyond the photograph’s boundaries towards what was or, perhaps, what is yet to come.
The basis of The Boys series is Greek mythology tales, which Nes has processed into contemporary Israeli reality. He has named one of the pictures in the series “The Death of Adonis". “In my childhood I was injured by a motorcycle in an accident", he tells, "at that moment, when I was laying on the road I was not concerned with pain but with the possibility that tomorrow I will be the talk of the small town in which we lived". Resembling the classic story, the beautiful Adonis is laying down surrounded only by women (contrasting identities) but simultaneously the picture reminds also another famous American picture; John Filo’s girl leaning over Student’s body during Kent State’ Demonstrations Against the Vietnam War. Adi Nes’ men remain forever young; in the photographs they depict the figures of Saints and heroes they could not portray in their lives.
Different worlds are integrated in Nes’ metaphors; the classic and the modern; the foreign and the local; the personal and the public in a charged atmosphere that presents men in the modern Israeli society trying to form their identity within powerful emotions combining beauty and bereavement.
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Ilan Sheinfeld is an established Hebrew writer. He was the first man to publicly go out of the closet in the early 80’s. He has published eight volumes of poetry, two novels, three books for children and three plays. In 1997 he established the first Israeli gay publishing house, “Shufra for Fine Literature”. Between 1990-1992 he was the spokesman of the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv. In 1992 he opened his major Israeli public relations agency, “Ilan Sheinfeld public relations and communications”. Between 2000-2002 he has established and managed the first gay Israeli bookstore and coffee shop’ “Café Theo”, that was closed after a sever attack of homophobia. Ilan Sheinfeld and Adi Nes lived together between 1992-2001.