gur art 88 298.
(photo credit: Petah Tikva Museum of Art)
To make sense out of an exhibition entitled A Rich Seam, the visitor must accept the fact that, according to curator Hagai Segev, Israeli artists have consciously readdressed their approach to making art in the last two decades. From reductive characteristics deployed under the label A Want of Matter - an exceptional TAMA exhibition organized by Sarah Breitberg Semel in 1986 - we have moved to communication-oriented documentation.
Semel was concerned with the local painterly dialect and its conflict with the universality of art as proposed by New Horizons, while the contemporary scene deals more with current mores of technology, marketing and rating than it does with content and aesthetics.
To qualify his thesis, Segev has carefully chosen works by 11 artists, making sure the package covers the current fine art spectrum. Each artist tries to scrutinize underlying psychological messages of doubt and fear and the linkage between several broad concepts of happiness.
This is not an easy exhibition to peruse, for many of the displays are shrouded in mystifying concepts and imagery. The introductory piece is an installation entitled Landscape by Gaia Tchetchik and Danny Lavie. Encompassing a sparkling lacquer-red dinner table with a rolling wine glass, a baroque chandelier and a black void in which a sumptuous abstract film with electronic sound is projected, the work provokes a discourse between classical hedonism and the veracity of bourgeois culture. Beautifully constructed and finished, the thoughtful combination of elements momentarily stops the visitor in his tracks but, unfortunately, because of its unchallenging message, does not sustain interest.
In an adjacent room, Zoya Cherkassky shows The Three Graces, a trio of small, busty and short-skirted dolls portrayed as victims of abundance, a social phenomenon riding the waves of western society that has alerted identifiable personalities into neutral commodities. In the same space, Guy Shoham exhibits several oil paintings whose overly packed and overly brushed compositions dwell on an assortment of compressed porcelain figures, a few broken, others whole, some seductive, others banal. Arranged with vividly colored jumbo flowers and peculiar fairy tale forests, his brittle narratives project a Northern European feeling that beneath the surface, something sinister is about to transpire.
Anan Tzuckerman evaluates the socio-sexual relationships of domesticity with panoramic color photographs that contain complex, meticulously designed clusters of household objects and furnishings supporting the main actors. Melodramatic to their core, both Male Liberation and GSA (Genetic Sexual Attraction) provide the viewer with all the sordid familial trappings, from a man pleading on all fours to be shot by his female partner wielding a revolver, to two lesbians wrapped in the throes of passionate revelry in a room that is all black and white. A Victorian iron bed, billowing curtains and a phallic lamp provide a frame for the corporeal ecstasy taking place on the undefiled linen.
The Bride and Last Tear are short-action videos shot by Yael Feldman, both dealing with a twisted sentimentality. A tear drop running upwards and a close up of a nose bleed manipulate the audience's emotional response and make it reconsider the cinematic truths embodied in schmaltz.
Over-romanticizing also takes place in cut-and-paste reworked photographs by Dror Daum. His focus is on Hollywood cinema posters from which he extracts details and rearranges them into something novel, except that the originality is covered with a simplistic, dusty patina that neither envelops one's intellectual search for something more meaningful nor stimulates one's appetite to get involved further than the surface picture. Nir Hod is not too far behind, for his realistically rendered self-portraits in Superman on Wheels and I Swear from the mid-1990s are both artificial illustrations, the former painted, the latter photographed. His attempt to marry popular media figures and understandable accessories with his own hermaphroditic personality cult results in peculiar, monotonous and obvious theatrical icons.
The exhibition's most arresting work - and also its most complicated - is agriculturaldreams.com. Created by the talented sculptor Eli Gur Arie, the installation and mixed-media effort is spread over several square meters of floor and wall space, deploying a fascinating set of mini, self-contained ecosystems, barren islands, a weird and wonderful hairless animal and his adolescent pearl fisher from previous displays. Together they surround what appears to be a demolished space capsule wired to a fan of metallic flanges. A video projection of a flaming craft entering the atmosphere completes the presentation.
Whether via single sculptures or comprehensive installations, Gur Arie is committed to examining the symbiotic interaction of nature and technology and how each supplements the other's needs. In all of Gur Arie's works, obvious truths are scrambled with ambiguous metaphors and both are flavored by his virile imagination and salted with an imposing sense of doom. In agriculturaldreams.com, more than others reviewed in the past, Gur Arie attempts to analyze the spiritual and physical by reflecting on the tensions between the real world and the virtual one, a modern phenomenon that has become a significant factor in man's daily existence.
Attacking cultural ideas of provocation, overindulgence and branding, Yossi Mark skillfully paints naturalistic portraits of his family that convey messages of modesty and introspection. Searching the gallery, the adult woman and the young boy, both tight lipped and diffident in posture, stare at the spectators with an honesty and directness that requires them to step back and assess the subjects' psychological condition. The barren backgrounds are a further declaration of Mark's refusal to accept the commercial trappings of our socio-cultural reality.
The last participant is Aya Ben Ron, a computer artist showing a quartet of graphic mandalas entitled Particles. Printed on transparent sheets, the mandala reflects the Buddhist picture of the world, presented in the form of a richly painted or woven diagram. Its literal meaning is the container of the essence, a dialectal medium that embraces the spiritual and physical worlds. Excessively designed in a circular kaleidoscopic fashion, Ben Ron uses a medical student's coloring book as her source material from which she extracts and organizes a host of diagrammatic body parts, organs and instruments.
Under the direction of chief curator Drorit Gur-Arie, this recently gentrified museum is establishing itself as a progressive venue for mounting interesting - and in most instances good - quality exhibitions. A Rich Seam, although spotty on the edges, sustains the idea. (Petah Tikva Museum of Art, 21 Arlosoroff.) Till August 26.