ON ANOTHER PLANE
From the catalog of the Planes exhibit. New York, NY 1996.
Written by Dore Ashton
It all has to do with imagining, which is not the same as imaging. The principal occupation of the imagination is to wander – some say to fly. In its vagabond life, the imagination alights in unexpected places. That is to say, the artist who lives by the imagination as the warrior proverbially lives by the sword, notices alights and almost in the moment of noticing, takes off again. What Ran Oron noticed as a cadet in the Israeli Air Force – that each student flyer folded his map differently – led him to imagine experiences on many planes, and seek to render the trajectory of his freely imagined flights (one might say flight of fancy) in the tangible terms his life as an architect demands.From the enfolded maps he came to the hinge (for every crease hinges on the act of folding) and from the hinge he came to the wall. All this free association, however, had to culminate in the free-standing objects so intricately conceived and so simply executed – works that in their circumscription of space are beautiful tectonic sculptures, or walls, not retaining walls, but containing walls. (One could see these objects, also, as a discreet homage to Oron’s teacher, the master imaginator, John Hejduk)Oron’s first training was to navigate space as a flyer. His second was to construct space as a maker of objects – two seemingly incommensurate procedures that Oron found the means – through imagination – to fuse. The important thing is that Oron is a helicopter navigator. Unlike the jet flyer, the helicopter navigator always checks the abstractions of his unfolding map against his real experience as he peers down at the earth and scans the eternal horizon. In the tension between the reading of the signs – conventions of the map: the line, the dot, the wavy meander that we agree to call a road, a town, a river, – and the vivid imaging of what they represent, lies the characteristic activity of the artist. He reads his experience and transforms it into something made. As Oron insists, each time a flyer folds his map, it is a personal way of reading the terrain. Each has his own perspective of the earth and the sky as they unfurl before him, and each has his own landmarks. The analogy with the terrain of human existence is not difficult to perceive in this particular aspect of the flyer’s life that Oron noticed.
But to come down to earth: For the architect, as Oron learned, everything begins with a line. The line inevitably becomes a plane, at least for an architect, who must read and develop his plan into three dimensions of living experience. The elegant geometries implicit in Oron’s free-standing objects, despite their imagined motility, are still signs that must be read poetically. They are still the tangible translations of man’s ineffable longing for structure. The most simple definition of geometry, already proffered by the Greeks, is that it describes permanent relations in space – an ideal almost always at odds with life experience, and always inhabiting human imaginations. What the artist-architect does, finally, and paradoxically, is to image relations that his imagination constantly toils to invent.