New Members 2013
Curator: Ben Nun Tali
17 Oct — 7 December, 2013
A different time is trapped between the walls of the Jerusalem Artists’ House lobby. A time out of time. Memory, commemoration, symbols, iconography, and architectural elements brush against the here and now.
The supporting pillars of this place, led by Boris Schatz and Bezalel teachers who joined him in founding Bezalel School in 1906, cast new contents that encouraged the creation of art founded upon Zionist, national, immigrant, socialist, educational, and symbolic values. That is, pre-state Israeli Classicism.
Schatz envisaged an ideological manifesto that will lead to the merger of our national identity and consciousness as a people and will constitute a sound foundation for self- realization – not only of the Jewish collective in the Land of Israel, but also the individual’s.
Since then, contemporary Israeli art has moved away not only from the utopian vision of pre-state Israeli art, but also from itself. The desire to toe the line and gain international recognition, the desire to diminish the gap between here and there, to speak the “right” conceptual language and formulate a critical position distinguished as local-Israeli – all these have taken over the ideological rationale and the artistic motives and influence the artistic Israeli creation and motivate it and its progression to this day. None of us want to remain behind, and no one likes to hear that the trends and fashions of the international art world arrive in Israel a decade late. The gap begs to be minimized, since these are the rules of the game in a global world.
The principle of historical continuity between past and present is maintained at The Jerusalem Artists’ House with admirable consistency, in an attempt to draw a line between ground breaking artists and formative works in the Israeli canon, to their potential present day successors. Time does not move only forward, the linear option is just one of the possibilities and perceptions of the notion of time.
As is befitting a time honored tradition, every year The Jerusalem Artists’ House continues to admit new members to the Painters and Sculptures Association. This year eight new members have joined; artists from different generations who live and work in Jerusalem. The media they work in are diverse: from painting, drawing, collage, print, and photography to sculpting, pottery, video, and installation.
Although it is impossible to point at a common denominator or a conceptual affinity between the artists participating in the show, the permutations between the personal and biographical and external and eclectic influences provide an opportunity to view partial bodies of work and different representation practices that touch upon social and political aspects, which are at the same time local and profound.
About the artists:
Hannan Abu-Hussien engages in feminine creation in a chauvinistic postmodern world, and challenges the oppression of the female self through her art. Her artworks deal with the expression of the personal-feminine voice, religion and capitalism, sexual exploitation, love and personal freedom, and gender equality. Her feminist positions do not come from a low stance that deals with rights or discrimination, but from that of a determined and powerful woman aware of her place as an individual in society.
In an installation composed of a collection of castings of high heel shoes, a feminine fetishistic attribute and a symbol of a desirable object, Abu-Hussein addresses issues pertaining to objectification, power, female strength, and the potential of motion.
The act of stripping off the gamut of external traits that define the object – color, model, design, brand name, and even shoe size – leaves a generic prototype, devoid of attribution or specific identity that define the economic and social status in a world of consumerist capitalism.
Some 50 pairs of shoes are scattered on the room’s floor in an arrangement that hints at a halted motion, randomness versus planning, excess, and hording. The multitude of shoes reminds me of the Red Queen’s words in Through the Looking-Glass, when she tells Alice that she has to run as fast as she can in order to stay in one place.
Abu-Hussein disables the functionality of the shoes by fixing them to the floor and by choosing the rigid and gray materiality of concrete. By doing so, she denies them the possibility to be worn on a woman’s foot or move, and turns the work into a poetic, silent, and still concrete monument.
Using her hands, clay, and wheel, Irit Abba delineates her field of activity – pottery. Her works reference ancient traditions of Egyptian, Ethiopian, and other ceramics that hold meaning beyond a decorative, functional, or cultural discourse and an artistic conceptual point of view defined in terms of body, material, color, line, and shape.
It is a quiet, meditative sculpture that stems from one resource – porcelain. In a group of new works created especially for the exhibition, Abba examines the line between the rational and the irrational in three-dimensions, the attributes of the vessel as a physical body rather than a receptacle. The artist “glues” vessel to vessel, making sure that each “part” embodies a different cultural, aesthetic, and technical style. The result produces odd, unexpected juxtapositions of material and object. Levels, building additions, patches of material. These are little totems that look like a link between the mundane and the historical. The seam line between the vessels demonstrates an impossible moment in which the real emerges from the symbolic.
The act of compressing the clay (which looks like wafer thin layers of fabric or crepe) is a testament not only to a technical and plastic, almost sculptural, ability based on a long familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of porcelain, like its elastic ability to expand and shrink, but also embodies a thought on the concept of time – accelerated time and slowed time, manual time and industrial time.
Over the years Irit Abba’s personal artistic language gained further depth, and her current works expose an archeological poetics, one that advances backwards, yet opens the medium of pottery to a contemporary discourse that holds a deepness and richness of material and cultural associations. She creates a three-dimensional still life that touches on the physical and metaphorical and contains a fascinating dialogue between the modern and the ancient, between an artifact and an historical finding.
On 2012 Independence Day, Yael Robin arrived at an open day at an IDF base in Judea and Samaria . The base that was open to the general public offered families a variety of activities such as dressing up in soldiers’ costumes and camouflage makeup, playing with cold weapons, and an arms display. The time Robin had spent at the base yielded a great deal of raw photographic material. From these photographic materials, Robin selected moments that caught her attention – encounters between people, between man and landscape, between man and arms. She extracted those from the photograph and repositioned them in her living room. In a process of sorting, tracing, cutting, gluing and repositioning, Robin directed transitions between real-time documented reality and reality that was cut and implanted in a new setting in her home. The result is a collage that is simultaneously two-dimensional and three-dimensional, composed of fragments of photographs of documentary or associative origin. What is the truth and what is a lie? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? What is reality and what is fictional here?
The manipulation of perspective, scale, shadow, subtraction, and addition produces a collagist or Photoshop like situations, in which the connection between the protagonists and the background is at most poetic, surrealist, or ironic.
Robin resurrects realistic, political, and national events in a different context – domestic and personal. She deliberately stays away from realistic and narrative images and produces an ambiguous and disturbing encounter between the photographed materials and her living room. A weird mixture of fantasy and reality, the private and the public, barbarism and leisure culture.
Boris Oicherman sculpts a present; his actions are place, time, and context related. Whether they are monumental or minor in presence, they manage to physically and sensually undermine the commonplace perception of a place and offer a universal interpretation.
Oicherman “marks” a place, literally and conceptual, and etches into it a new mind frame. The use of material, light and shadow, movement, and space, merge into actions that leave their mark on the place. The connection between the elements is the place, on its symbols, weaknesses, strengths, history, and the stories attributed to it. Oicherman puts a metaphorical mirror in front of the viewer for him to look at the emptiness – the void, not only in terms of past, dust, and death but also in the terms of the present, of the experience of lingering, of a space where nothing takes place, but does. A shadow of the Menorah symbol adorning the arched glass above the entrance door to The Jerusalem Artists’ House is cast on the opposite wall of the inner space. The shadow of the Menorah expands, climbing the walls like a spider, flickering like a reflection in a pool. The shadow allows us to understand the concrete image, and at the same time its allusiveness on the wall casts a doubt on the eternity of the Menorah on all its significances – those mentioned in Boris Schatz’s utopian vision, and the national ones.
The shadow of the Menorah on the wall and the arched ceiling of the lobby give the space a cave-like feeling, like a prehistoric mural or alternately a ghost that lingers in the space and conjures up its the past.
In another work on the gallery floor, Oicherman blocks one of the openings used as passageway between the exhibition spaces, by stacking black archival boxes, numbered crates, and laminated catalogues. These raw materials were taken from The Jerusalem Artists’ House’s archive, which is located on the roof of the building. From that exact location, where a wooden Menorah (one of the national emblems) is placed, Boris Schatz looked over heavenly Jerusalem and the luminous Dome of the Rock.
The use of archival materials is an act that contains a conscious intention of exposing the traces of a place, secretes from the past, materials that signified something for someone and are now “on hold”. The choice of using them as the blocking elements can be interpreted as a critical act of protest, mocking the fear of progression and the uncontrollable desire to keep the past chained to us. On the other hand, such action can also be interpreted as one that makes room for the past in the here and now, not out of nostalgic outburst, but rather out of true respect to the foundations.
The blocking does not allow the past to elude or slip away from our consciousness, we will stumble upon it whether we want to or not. The encounter between the historical and the present creates a poetic image that encompasses time, information, knowledge, and people’s names and work, on all their layers.
Blocking is a simultaneously symbolic and physical act that prevents access from one place to the other and interferes with the architecture of the building. The result is a route whose automatization is interrupted, which forces us to perform a different physical gesture in the internal space, and also suggests a different way of looking at the outside beyond the gallery’s window.
Oicherman delineates a vertical axis from the rooftop of The Jerusalem Artists’ House to the entrance floor that passes through the heart of the house – the gallery floor. It is an imaginary line that leaves a metaphysical, spiritual, and concrete imprint on the space of The Jerusalem Artists’ House.
Dan Orimian’s painting refuses to follow one path. It meanders through the troublesome realms of the subconscious and lays down on the canvas a sensual, survivalist, curious, and adventurous urge. The things that meet the eye conceal hidden things that wink at the viewer from under the surface of the painting, slyly waiting to captivate him. The impassive façade, the one that prefers irony to emotion, is waiting backstage for someone to roll up the curtain of the painting at an unpredictable moment and catch it “off guard”. The viewer becomes, without being explicitly recruited for this task, a passive/active accomplice in the disillusionment process of the painter, of the painting.
Something is hiding behind the things’ frame of mind and their realization on the canvas. Beneath the serious cloak of the surface, amidst fleshy, dense, and dark layers of paint, there are heft and lightness, humor and repression, seduction and castration. Each of the paintings is like a footnote on formalism, Romanticism, Realism, Expressionism, and Abstract. Together they create a poetic and virtual territory of time-place-state. The time is any time, the place is any place, and the state – changes daily, hourly.
The possibility or impossibility of an encounter between the painting and the viewer, between fictional, internal reality, stories that people tell themselves their whole lives and the reality they encounter, and the unwillingness to acknowledge what it puts in front of them, leaves painting in an illusory experimental expanse that shifts between the tragic and comical, the pulsating and the static, the deep and the flat.
Orimian is committed to painting and to the act of painting. It is an act that for him holds responsibility and moral resolution, not only in a subjective sense, but also as a personal and conceptual language.
Is it possible to grab something that has no body, which is entirely a figment of the imagination, air, and thought?
Leonid Zeiger’s series of works is a monochromatic, two-dimensional, essentially modern monolith, which touches upon the fascinating philosophical issues of contemporary painting. Zeiger creates on the canvas a sort of cosmic intersection that merges four scientific practices: mathematics, engineering, alchemy, and mysticism, with which the pictorial space is charged with the material and metaphysical essence.
A square, a circle, and grid are the constructivist elements beneath and above the painting’s surface. They represent the cerebral aspect of the painting process. Quick, energetic, and expressive brush strokes manifest the emotional, abstract aspect.
A heavy ball-circle sails through the atmospheric space of the canvas – a mass to which the laws of gravity do not apply, conveys a feeling of falling but also of equilibrium. The background holds the image, or perhaps it is the image that holds the background.
Dense or diluted, sculptural or linear, dark or light (to the point of disappearing) circles look like a series of portraits of human skulls. Frontal, side and back views simulate MRI scans.
Zeiger offers a plastic and abstract interpretation to a medical indicator – a magnetic scan that tests the cranial space and internal tissues. He provides an essentially analytical, diagnostic reading, not only to the veiled images that appear on the canvas, but also to the formation process of the painting on the canvas. The color defines the images that exist on the canvas, while the rhythmic and physical motion of the paint is the means for deciphering the image.
Shosh Israeli is a multidisciplinary artist who works in the media of photography, painting, drawing, collage, sculpting, video, and installation. Her works are like an odyssey of shadows alluding to the existence of a hidden reality. Israeli’s journeys through the stream of consciousness turn into a jumble of images mixing with one another without hierarchy, demonstrating the unrest typical of the absorption and processing process of her artistic view. Religion, wars, architecture, mysticism, myth, cult, love, animals, life and death.
The existence of a world of shadows hiding beneath the skin of the present and affecting it, for better or worse, is associated with the foundation of the psychoanalyst perception. And indeed, this interpretation seeps into Israeli’s works through a surrealist-mythical amalgam of reality, memory, and imagination. Israeli compresses time, folds it into tiny squares and writes history a new mythology based on collective, possibly fabricated, biographical events and memories.
In the paper works, as well as the essentially collagist video works, Israeli manages to fuse past and future on one surface. The heavenly world and the earthly world gain equal importance.
The video works bring to mind in their style the German Expressionist cinema which adhered to internal reality, farfetched as it may be, and exaggerated it with symbols, stereotypes, and stylized characters. In both media Israeli plants familiar hints, iconic, fragmentary images taken from supposedly identifiable concrete reality, yet as the gaze scans the images over and over, processes data and approaches the image – reality disintegrates and becomes fluid, transient, random.
Hallucination, trauma, castration, traces of the past. A cacophony of images and associations, with no beginning or end. A shell beneath a shell beneath a shell. Israeli does not attribute narrative or rational significance to time. All is part of shedding the present – archival photographs, journalistic photograph, photographs from the family album, wallpapers, drawings, pain t. Collagist topography of a personal, collective, and historical landscape-memory.
Aon Kedem’s “painting court” is a human, psychological and sociological meeting point of place and time, figures, and objects. The relationship between them and the space in which they meet on the canvas stands at the center of his painterly research; it is an elegy on the loss of an ideological space and an individual space.
The space in Kedem’s painting is delineated in a concrete or metaphorical manner. In some paintings it is defined with a line, an architectural element, light and shade, and in some paintings a certain occurrence stands at the center of the painting and the borders of its expansion define the space.
Kedem directs a painting as though it was a theater stage. The background is calculated and composed (backdrop) and in the middle ground there are figures or situations that leave their marks on it. There is a balance between what appears at the foreground of the painting and what takes place in the background or its margins. At times the background is neutral, since only thus it could carry the weight of the events without imploding, and at times the image at the front receives minimalist treatment and the background represents the painting’s subtext. Kedem’s directorial qualities are also manifested in the intimate relationships he weaves between the figures and the objects and their surroundings.
The paintings from the series entitled Scramble (2011-2013) present a pile of people who have lost self control. The absurd humor and use of saccharine pastel color palette deceptively comfort the eye, as a closer look will reveal a space which has a potential of erupting violence, disintegration, and lose of control.
Conceptually, the balance that Kedem aspires to create in the painting is also the imbalance. The dissonance is an important element in the construction of the painting, where a fine line separates restraint and eruption, order and chaos, the abstract from the concrete. Kedem maintains the position of an outside observer, but at the same time is also physically and mentally present in the painting, as though he himself was one of the figures caught in the bottom of the pile.
- Abba Irit
- Abu-Hussein Hannan
- Israeli Shosh
- Kedem Alon
- Oicherman Boris
- Orimian Dan
- Robin Yael
- Zeiger Leonid