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Out of My Book: New work by Yael Ben-Simon

Opening Reception:

Saturday August 4th, 6-9PM

Show Runs:

August 4 – September 8, 2018

Yael Ben-Simon’s new series of work, Out of My Book, was inspired initially by an annual week long social media event were libraries, archives and cultural institutions offer downloadable images from their collections rendered as coloring book pages.  Ben-Simon will recreate the spirit of this process by transferring images from the book Iconology to canvas in the style of coloring book pages, and then she reworks the images with mixed media materials.


She chose to work on Iconology, a 17th century Italian emblem book, by Cesare Ripa as she recreates her own shared archive. Emblem books, a novel form of popular literature in those days, contained depictions of human figures as abstract ideas in texts and images. Drawing from various traditions, including greek and roman mythology, Christianity and alchemy, this work served as a handbook for generations of artists, poets and scholars. Offering a lexicon of archetypical characters, it is a road map for deciphering the art and culture of the late Renaissance and Baroque eras that were obsessed with allegory.


Iconology has hundreds of personified abstract concepts ordered alphabetically. Ben-Simon chose Melancholy, Lust, Sincerity, Death, Study, Inspiration, Will and Imitation.  She then transferred their images onto canvases, in a stylized graphic style mimicking that of outlined images in a coloring book. Each figure elicited different emotions and ideas, hence receiving a different treatment, materially speaking. The result reflects her varying degrees of indifference and attention to the characters’ meaning, sometimes highlighting it, sometimes obscuring it.


She was drawn to using Iconology because of her fascination with originating forms of symbolism. And how those simplified visual cues have embodied power structures throughout history, shaping entire cultures, visually and politically.  This fascination is a continuation of her previous body of work, in which she worked with flags often with depictions of animals whose vigor and valor are translated into authoritative badges that augmented the high social status of their bearers. Yael sees these symbols as a representation of the current expansion of theater into politics and how the blurring of fiction and reality can be viewed as a deceptive mechanism of the nation-state.


Yael Ben-Simon received her BFA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and her MFA from The School of the Art Institute Chicago. She is an Israeli born artist that lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She has exhibited her work in numerous group exhibitions at SIM Gallery in Reykjavik Iceland, Hyde Park Art Center and The Wassaic Project. She has also received several residencies, including a funded residency to Vermont Studio Center and most recently at MASS MoCA. This will be her first solo exhibition in Minnesota.

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