Gateless gate is a paradox used in Zen teachings to help students realize the nature of things. It is not about a gate, but about the mind being transformed by confronting the paradox of the non-existance of the gate. The Zen Master, monk Mumon, said:
"The Great Way has no gate, A thousand roads enter it.
When one passes through this gateless gate, He freely walks between heaven and earth."
Raquel Rabinovich’s work is also about transformative confrontation. When she makes art she doesn’t consciously know beforehand where she will arrive; she works until she experiences no gate or barrier, until there is no separation between inside and outside and she and her work become one. In the process of working – layer upon layer of lines, marks, paint, glass or stones – she seems to conceal what is not, and reveal what is. This is an essential aspect of her working process. If one looks deeply and spends time with her Gateless Gates paintings, one will discover the title embedded into the paint, which functions as a metaphor for what happens in the act of looking at a painting. The viewer has to go through a gateless gate to understand the paintings. What counts in the painting is embedded into the painting itself. The meaning is inherent in the painting. When one thinks about what that means one is already entering the painting itself. As Rabinovich herself has said, showing her recognition of the paradoxes her works engender, “I know that a painting is finished when the ground becomes groundless and the surface dissolves into that groundlessness.”
River Library is a series of drawings on handmade paper in which the artist uses mud from rivers all over the world as her medium. The layering of paper and mud onto pages parallels the formation of sediment in the depths of the rivers. Mud embodies the history of the earth and humankind – it contains life, death, and layers of accumulation. Mud, like the alphabet of a language yet to be deciphered, like a yet unwritten history of nature and culture, functions like a text that provides traces, a memory of our existence.
Rabinovich’s art has always been informed by an underlying fascination with the concealed aspects of reality. She is interested in what we cannot see and seems to be invisible. She is compelled by the process of how something emerges into view from concealment. Working across mediums, this is the essence of her artwork, now, and for the past 50 years.