Jaffa through a looking glass

In an exhibition he calls There's Nothing Like Jaffa, Avi Schwartz has labeled one genre painting The Godfather.

September 21, 2006 09:52
4 minute read.
Jaffa through a looking glass

jaffa painting 88. (photo credit: )


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In an exhibition he calls There's Nothing Like Jaffa, Avi Schwartz has labeled one genre painting The Godfather. He doesn't describe the capo de capi made famous on the silver screen but a swaggering rooster ruling his roost. Surrounded by a kneeling adversary and an unenthusiastic bodyguard, with added spice in the form of a basket, brass platter and nargileh, this fine feathered, richly colored barnyard specimen stands erect and self-righteous as sunlight pours into the enclosure, illuminating an obvious theatrical setting. The narrative scenes continue as Schwartz takes the viewer on a journey through the alleys, markets and port of Jaffa, setting the stage and depicting his characters with all the obviousness and artificiality he can muster. One is struck by the blatant mannerisms, the exaggerated programmed exploitation of glitzy complementary colors. Schwartz leaves nothing to chance or to the spectator's imagination. Influenced by Nahum Gutman, Arieh Lubin and Zvi Shor, with whom he studied in the early '70s, he spells out every item of clothing, furniture and architecture with great detail in a crisp naturalistic style. What's more, the overly gestured actions of his personalities, mostly aging characters in vests and stocking caps playing backgammon, chatting at a horse-drawn cart or gossiping on the stoop, are reduced to pure caricature. HEAVING WITH a profusion of vivid ultramarine, viridian, violet and magenta brush strokes, and minor scales of ochre and burnt orange, Sara Erman's expressive still life and flower compositions shimmer and shake. But beneath the blazing union of these transparent and opaque hues her canvases display ample descriptive content to make OverCraft a satisfying exhibition. Starting out by covering the entire canvas with a base color, Erman subsequently assaults the picture plane with a dazzling display of brushing by combining staccato and flowing strokes to depict, in a semi-abstract manner, a recognizable array of floral patterns eclipsed by leaves, windows and uncomplicated interior views. In order to appreciate Erman's paintings, which seem to meld one into another in the crowded gallery, the viewer must be willing to concentrate and absorb the perplexity of layered underpainting and overpainting until the subject begins to emerge as a cohesive unit. Although the works are extremely elaborate, Erman inserts enough see-through segments into the busy pictorial plane that allow the compositions to open up and breathe in her attack and parry style. ICON - THE GOLDEN AGE began in 2000, the year Shai Abady spent at the Cit study center in the heart of Paris. As a long-term resident of the city of lights, Abady was exposed to the varied treasures of Christian art in the dark confines of the Fraternit Monastique de Jerusalem, a combined historical and spiritual experience that he developed into a series of icons made from graphite, oils, lacquer and gold leaf on paper and wood. Abady's icons are basically a series of small black and white studies, mostly portraits with a smattering of anatomical views, embedded in gold surfaces. Subjects are carefully rendered side views and are closely cropped on all four sides of the panel, leaving no room for supplementary imagery that would assist the public in understanding more about the sitter's position and personality. The attempts to emulate classical medieval and early Renaissance icons fall short of the mark for they totally neglect the divine aspect of the art form. Although his drawing is adequate, Abady has misplaced the passion. WALKING ON all fours, naked and exposed to the elements, a band of pink, trance-like humans, boney and with shark-like teeth, prowl a deserted urban environment searching for unattached victims. HaShaliach (The Messenger), by Avi Trattner, has been created as a fiendish sort of guy to instill fear in his audience. The opposite occurs. Trattner's recurring monsters come across as nothing more than poorly painted undernourished puppets enjoying, like a dog on a leash, a walk downtown. FROM MILITARY intelligence with a specialty in cryptography, and a doctoral thesis in which he investigated the matching and aligning of DNA sequences, Giddy Landan has taken on the art world with a medium called the jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles are time-killers that require little more than motor skills and visual concentration. Landan attempts to add a creative act to the basic challenge of search and find by shuffling unconnected images into a single picture. Evidently puzzles come in established sequences by individual manufacturers, so although the picture changes the die cut units remain the same. Landan creates a topsy-turvy world where deserts fade into mountainous snowfields and the Eiffel Tower is relocated between the sails of a three-master. At other times the images are fragmented into non-objective patterns of color as in Lobotomy, a chaotic mixture of color and shape with only a glimpse of an architectural structure. Art or busy work? This writer suggests the latter. IN HIS first solo appearance Gilad Ben Schatz exhibits portraits of young men and women serving in the IDF photographed on a single Sunday morning at the Haifa central bus station. His subjects represent the average soldier moving from one way of life to another. These unidentified personnel stare directly at the camera without any overt mannerism that would set them apart. Unlike the portraits of the 1950s and 1960s of the beautiful, gallant and fearless sabra, an image meant to endorse Israel's patriotic spirit, these are simply sensitive human beings who happen to be serving their country. In the same gallery, Drora Weizman recycles the emblems of war into the symbols of art. She has accumulated dozens of epaulets onto which she has sewn, glued or just placed a weird and wonderful range of objects from crayons and buttons and sergeant's stripes to bits of lace and paratrooper wings. Weizman's small display is a demonstration of memory, of the entire military establishment, the passing-out parade and battles won and lost. But the associations she builds between there and here, then and current affairs. are extraordinary. (Zaritsky Artists Pavilion, 9 Alharizi, Tel Aviv). Schwartz till September 23, all others till September 30.

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