Deconstruction and Optimism In the Art of Fred Charap - by Joseph Levi, Chief Rabbi of Florence - Fred Charap
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Deconstruction and Optimism In the Art of Fred Charap – by Joseph Levi, Chief Rabbi of Florence

Fred Charap’s deconstruction navigates between realism and poetry, between the investigation of matter
and the search for spirituality, between atheistic dissolution on one hand and the trust and hope placed
in a significant divinity on the other, between the decomposition of elements created by man or nature
and a hidden and subtle harmony which holds everything together, revealing the poetic and aesthetic
dimension which unites separate and dissolving elements, the invisible one which blends them together.
Similarly to all deconstructionists , in the decomposing elements of nature Charap presents and hides
the mystery of the existent; the nothing, the black hole of being reveals existence itself, which manifests
and is built through disconnected elements which, for some mysterious reason, tend to unite or maintain
a form of relationship to generate units or structures of meaning and symbols, natural or man-made
points of support for our world, be it real, concrete and objective, or subjective, poetic and mental.
Amidst these pluralities of detached and united forms of existence, the poet-artist reveals units and
symbols filled with contents and architectonic and spiritual meaning, as archetypical as the letters of the
Hebrew alphabet, the founding elements of the world, of material existence according to mystic Hebrew
literature and to the mystic Hebrew late-antique Pythagorean “Book of Creation”, but also according to
the medieval kabbalah. Alongside Pythagorean numbers, and the geometrical shapes of the Platonic
myth, the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet were the elements which allowed the creator, the great
architect to compose our physical material reality, as well as our mental, poetic and literary dimension,
and they appear in Charap’s work as symbols of an archetypical unity of existence. Besides the letters,
other shapes refer to Hebrew traditions and to the hope of finding in the decomposition of being a form
of units capable of offering hope of harmony and trust, such as the various Hebrew names of the divine;
these are exhibited as anonymous elements of decomposition, yet they evoke the idea that elements of
decomposition do not hide or decompose the nothingness: instead, they reveal hidden units of meaning
that hint to a rich world of arcane unity, hope and to a strong meaning of existence, just as the names
of the divine composed by Hebrew letters do; or even to a ladder of ladders, capable of uniting decomposed parts, similarly to the ladder with which Jacob aimed to connect the sky and earth, thus giving a sense to his history and to the history of his ancestry, the ancestry of Israel. It is still unclear if the ladder was built by man and his projections on the sky (or the world of Platonic ideas), or if it was thrown to earth to offer Jacob hope during his pilgrimage from the promised land, the place built and guarded by the divine, filled with meaning and the divine presence of the Sekhinà, towards the land of pilgrimage, of the Diaspora, of continuous movement and precariousness, of deconstruction, of migration-caused suffering, across an unknown, decomposed land and its meaningless basic elements.
A further element we can observe is a Jew praying with the shawl, which hides or encloses the figure
of the Rabbi; this figure may represent nothingness or the hope for a body of values to fill the void both
hidden and built by the shawl which, according to Chassidic language can also represent deep humbleness, the annulment of one’s person to discover, in the religious psychic mental exercise of prayer, the fullness of being, the divine, the origins of the being which observes and creates us, unites and decomposes us, to offer us the epopee of our vital existence, suspended between hopes and delusions.
All the figures in Charap’s paintings, human or otherwise, appear to be suspended and bound to each
other by a subtle hidden thread. The threads which bind units of material objects truly exist and are sometimes similar to barbed wire: this is obviously a reference to war and the animosity created by men.
In other instances, these threads resemble roots created by nature itself to bind things to their earthly
nature, to help the hidden links of existence flourish, to tie the material world itself to its elements, reciprocally.
In addition to elements and influences from Hebrew customs and their vision of history and of
the relationship between the creator and creation, between the material and its possible meaning, our
painter is also inspired by other languages from art history which present the divine with various techniques and a series of languages which range from impressionism to spiritual Eastern painting, mysterious monochrome units to bind together the dividable in a strong poetic assonance, as art history experts will surely recognize.
Thanks to my long-lasting personal acquaintance with the artist I like to think that I can recognize a
strong hope for faith in his works, alongside a form of inspiration drawn from biblical and Hebrew religious sources, not entirely dissipated and lost in the decomposition of matter and existence: an optimism towards existence and the origins of a being that lives on despite himself; a beautiful journey we can choose to take alongside our artist, to seek out the meaning of existence.

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