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Plywood is one of the cheapest raw materials available, but it's been a defining element of Israeli art since the late Fifties. Artists such as the "father of Israeli Modernism," Raffi Lavie, relied on the material to create an authentic Israeli art - a style and technique linked to Israeli reality.
Plywood never went out of fashion here, but in the past two decades, local artists have played down the "Israeliness" of their work. "Return of the Plywood," at the Tova Osman Gallery in Tel Aviv, allows viewers to discover recent works in the medium by two young contemporary artists.
Yuval Caspi's paintings and collages on plywood are an obvious appropriation - some might say theft - of his mentor's work. Caspi studied with Lavie at the Midrasha College of Art, and claims that he constantly asks himself, "what would Raffi say?"
There are two genuine Lavie works in the exhibition so viewers can see how Caspi also steals from Lavie's pictorial repertoire.
Unlike the classic Modernists, Yuval Caspi happily references several artists in a single work and loads his own creations with narrative, particularly biblical references. The artist claims that these visual "samples" are intended to explore the evolution of thought and otherwise inherited ideas. This represents a clear departure from Lavie, who once famously said that "behind the art there is just a white wall."
While Raffi Lavie aims to negate the presence of the plywood by emphasizing its cheap, flat qualities, the second young artist in the exhibition, Dror Auslander, does exactly the opposite.
Auslander cleverly and beautifully utilizes the grain of the wood to imply drifting clouds or waves rolling into the distance. It's clear that he knows how to handle paint convincingly, but he allows the wood to create the illusion. Unlike other works in the show, Auslander's pieces appear fresh and have a mystical effect.
Tova Osman Art Gallery, 100 Rehov Ben Yehuda, Tel Aviv. Open through July 17. For gallery hours, call (03) 522-7687.
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