New Members 2018
Curator: Nogah Davidson
25 Aug — 13 October, 2018
As part of a long tradition, the Artists House annually adds new members to the Jerusalem Artists Association. Next season’s opening exhibition will feature three new artists who have recently joined the Association: Noa Arad Yairi, Ella Cohen Vansover, Shimon Pinto.
Noa Arad Yairi presents a series of seven “Madonnas,” sculptures of women portrayed as ostensibly traditional icons, in postures that deviate from the traditional representation of women in art history. Arad Yairi sculpts figures of women from her immediate circle: friends and family members; ordinary women with unique figures which do not obey the canonical beauty ideal dictated by society. In this series she relates specifically to one of the basic ideals of femininity in Western culture—the Madonna—the epitome of motherhood and femininity. The majority of her figures allude to iconic masterpieces, thus eliciting a sense of familiarity, while standing for an ideal of perfection, echoing through the less than sublime image of the represented woman.
In this series of sculptures, the Madonnas assume postures usually reserved for the private sphere, as they perform essentially physical acts; postures which are far removed from those by which women tend to present themselves to the world: they smell themselves, examine themselves, or simply appear flaccid and utterly non representative. The artist points at the extent of absurdity to which women’s self-presentation has come. Only in the greatest secrecy, when no one is watching, does a woman let herself be a waning body, natural and free of pretense; a body which is not necessarily beautiful. The series reflects the burden of the ideal of feminine beauty in women’s everyday life; to what extent women’s social life is based on an artificial presentation of themselves, on an attempt to overcome their nature and the desire to be more than what they are. The Madonnas’ presentation as a series that spans multiple variants of femininity emphasizes the message that there is no single Madonna, that there is not only one version of femininity. Any version is legitimate, and it is impossible to subject femininity to a homogeneity of given stereotypes. As the number of women in the world, so is the number of feminine variants.
Ella Cohen Vansover presents a cluster of paintings in which she employs images from the world of Jewish tradition, rites of passage, and Mizrahi-Jewish folklore. Ritual objects, such as Torah scrolls used in the circular dance (Hakafot) ritual performed in Simchat Torah, dowry jewels, and pictures of rabbis, are isolated and painted freely in abstract style. Cohen Vansover depicts the objects with great love, profoundly relating to the spiritual meanings embedded in them. At the same time, she describes them as objects filled with humor, which an external gaze may construe as obscure forms incomprehensible to an outsider; as objects free of religious symbolism and context.
The painterly abstraction with which she furnishes the objects enables her to regard them as a collection of forms and colors whose meaning is subject to interpretation, which come together to form a composition. It is a perspective that often ranges between assimilating in the ritual-religious-spiritual experience and emerging from it to observe the ritual and the objects employed in it as strange forms of social-human conduct. Doubt is inherent to the experience; at its other end is acceptance and the willingness to let go of the intellect (or avoid conceptual/artistic/formalistic analysis) and enjoy the positive aspects innate to ritual and tradition. In this respect, the materiality of the surfaces on which she chooses to paint—plywood, cardboard, and leftover packaging materials, often found at random—is highly meaningful, since their simplicity and banality infuse the depicted objects with mundane/quotidian qualities, underscoring the tension between sacred and secular. The grand, venerated, meaningful object is brought down to earth. Ultimately, the portrayed objects are a part of the corporeal, simple and unadorned earthly life. Like the Torah scrolls, which are festively taken out of the Holy Ark and introduced to the popular Jewish ceremony of Hakafot, so the artist pulls the ritual objects out of their sanctified status, striving to observe them as a part of everyday life.
Shimon Pinto‘s painterly world comprises stratified personal symbolism, giving visual-formal representation to real life scenes, associations, childhood memories, and reflections on the artist’s place in the world as a human being and as a creator. Painting the Future depicts a quasi-fantastic scene which incorporates one such childhood memory, etched deep in the artist’s consciousness. As a child from the Negev city of Arad, on his way to school one day he came across a flock of birds convulsing on the ground, fighting for their lives after being poisoned. The young Pinto rushed back home to get milk, went from one bird to the next to pump its stomach. While busy performing the bird-saving task, his classmates gathered on the surrounding mountains and watched him from a distance. This unusual childhood memory acquires a lyrical painterly interpretation in Pinto’s work, which attests to his modus operandi as a whole.
The everyday, with its miraculous as well as routine moments, is translated into a surreal, dreamlike world in Pinto’s works. The painting Tree and Nine portrays a tree adorned with colorful ribbons. This image is a translation of a prevalent sight which Pinto encountered during his visits to the tombs of the righteous, where worshipers habitually tie plastic bags to tree branches as a form of wish making and a token of blessing. Pinto likens the visitors’ spontaneous act in the public space to the artistic act. The “decoration” is analogous to a meaningful artwork which carries intention.
The ribbons reappear in a painting Untitled depicting a white cube. They adorn a square structure in white, transforming it into a wedding gown of sorts, surrounded by a murder of featherless crows. The work ties Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915–23) to Hassidic writings, such as those by the Ba’al Shem Tov. The bride is the unreachable ideal of divinity, and the bachelors surrounding her are akin to a band of admirers who would never reach their desired goal. In this sense, this work and the tree work represent the manners in which Pinto combines the worlds of religion and art, and his being a hybrid oscillating between them.