Zac Hacmon was born in Israel in 1981. He studied at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and was an exchange student at the Slade School of Fine Arts, London. He participated in the International Artists Residency at the National Art Studio in Seoul under the Unesco Aschberg Scholarship, the International Artist-in-Residence Program at MeetFactory Studio, Prague, and a fellowship residency at Salem Art Works in Salem, NY. Hacmon earned his MFA at Hunter College in NYC.
Ceramic tiles feature heavily in many of your sculptural works. Do you construct the tiles yourself by hand, or are they pre-made? Can you explain this creative decision of whether or not to make your own material?
I prefer to use industrial materials and readymades, which function as fragments in my work. The current 4x4 inch tiles are inspired by my surroundings in my everyday life, such as the subway stations and areas in my home. The references range from private spaces to the public realm, and deal with the influence of one over the other. By using this industrial unit, I’m interested in alluding to elements that construct the post-industrial society we live in. In October I’m supposed to start a 10-week residency at Anderson Ranch. One of my proposals was to start making my own tiles. Even then the tiles will still have an industrial sense, as I’m not interested in leaving any gestures.
For a long time, ceramics were not commonly found in fine arts sculpture. In fact, it was rare to see it used extensively until recently. What motivated you utilize this medium?
The use of ceramic tiles in my work came out of my experiences in New York and my close surroundings, but it also has a historical reference. There is a long historical use of ceramic tiles, such as the Portuguese azulejo blue and white tile paintings. These are intriguing to me since they were used as a colonial measure to mark territories through art on tiles, bringing a form of beauty that was supposed to represent their presence in the foreign territory. It is interesting that tiles used to be busy with details and imagery, and our current surroundings are still concealed with tiles but now with blank ones. But their presence is no less stronger.
Many of your works include implications that they are utilitarian, functional objects, such as the inclusion austere industrial tiles and unadorned steel handlebars. However, their precarious positioning, combined with their near-Mobius geometric nature emphasizes a sense of impracticality and irrationality in the sculptures. What do you hope to express through this juxtaposition?
Living in 2018, at a time when everything is accessible and communication is immediate with any part of the world, it seems like our essence of being is dependent on functionality and efficiency. We can’t even walk in the street without checking our email and trying to make progress with something. It’s the same thing with my sculptures, I’m trying to get them to be more functional, to be a product. I want them to be efficient like a device.
Your sculptures aim to combine the human with the architectural. Can you explain what this connection?
There has always been a close relation between architecture and the human body, as one is supposed to serve the other. My interest is to question this relation in regards to my surroundings, coming from Israel and living in New York. People always ask me if I have a background in architecture, and I say I’m the user and I think that means a lot. I think architecture has stopped serving the needs of the ordinary person. You can find Le Corbusier talking about how modernity will improve the life of each person and redefine the meaning of home in a good way. And it’s interesting to see how modern architecture shifted from idealistic desires of giving more equally to all, and instead it became more of a trap, giving equally less.
Are there any specific types of structures and life forms that inspire and inform your work and can you explain why?
I’m mainly interested in spaces that are in-between, like corridors, borders, and checkpoints. I’m interested in the psychological shift that occurs in these in-between spaces, between one role and another. In my work there’s an attempt to catch the moment of the shift itself. The fragments in my work come from these places, like the ceramic tiles coming from a subway station that is in-between. These places can offer a sense of freedom, when you’re in the stage of becoming from one role to another.
What do you aim to convey by combining illogical, vaguely alien structures with rigidly geometric, yet familiar, industrial visual language?
I believe that illogical readings can give viewers an experience that will allow them to reread the logical again in a different way. In some of my works I’m trying to create a portal, with a transcendent meaning through its functionality.
You often implement an industrial, verging on an old-school Brutalist aesthetic. Can you elaborate what draws you to this particular style, especially in the face of the backlash against it in recent years?
My childhood was spent in Brutalist buildings such as my elementary school, high school, and college. It’s funny how these structures are reminiscent of military bases. I still remember the sense of security and safety under those reinforced concrete ceilings. Especially Bezalel Academy with its location on top of a mountain where one can observe everything around. In Israel the Brutalist style received two new meanings: safety and as a measure of division from the preexisting regional architecture.
There’s a notable theme of fragmentation and incompleteness within your body of work, whether through allusions to de-contextualization from a larger whole or, in the case of works like “Profanation”, a physical “chunk” of the piece being removed. Why is this a prevalent theme within your work and what is this meant to signify?
The work you are referring to, “Profanation” from 2017, was influenced by the ideas of Giorgio Agamben. As a reference to his book, “What is an Apparatus?” I was interested in creating some kind of failing apparatus with the bended grab bar and the broken structure. But there remains a kind of functioning circle holding one part to another.
You were born and lived in Israel for the majority of your life, attended school in London, participated in residencies in South Korea, the Czech Republic, and upstate New York, and now are currently living in New York City as an MFA candidate at Hunter College. How important are the different communities where you’ve been based to the formation of your artistic expression and vision? How does New York City compare and contrast the other communities you have been part of?
I have been very lucky to be able to travel to those places and to be part of different institutional organizations and residency programs. I do know these experiences have had a strong effect on my work and perceptions of myself. I can say that during my undergraduate studies my main interest was to be part of the Israeli art world. When I started to travel at a relatively late age, I let go of that desire as I felt there was a bigger platform of discussion to be part of. Artists carry their biographies with them, and although I’m recognized as an Israeli artist, I’m more interested in creating a hybrid context as a bridge between cultures.
Why is it important for artists to have organizations and communities like Artists Equity? What benefits are there?
As someone who recently relocated to New York, participating in an organization like Artists Equity gave me the possibility to meet and talk with fellow artists. It did allow me to be active in the Lower East Side, and to be able to express my voice and show my work.
Interviewed by Gina Mischianti