In the heart of the Neve Eliezar neighborhood, a periphery of Tel Aviv, viewers can find unusually strong contemporary art in the Kav 16 gallery. Here, the art is at least as good as in posh galleries in the city center, excepting the pretentious attitude of some commercial or more established venues.
Kav 16 has been in existence for a few years, but the current exhibition, "Diffusion," might be one of its best, demonstrating curator Maayan Sheleff's talent for stylistically diverse but coherent shows.
The gallery is located in a community center, and arriving makes for a rich sensual experience: sounds of rubber shoes and athletic teenagers squealing, grandmother types speaking unrecognizable languages and posters illustrating the physics of musical instruments. Yet in the midst of this light, purposefully accessible atmosphere, a few quality works of art stand out even before entering the official gallery space.
Downstairs near the building's entrance, two works by Efrat Galnoor and Keren Shplisher function as a teaser for the show upstairs. Galnoor's series features recognizable imagery from the neighborhood - cars, ubiquitous post-bauhaus architecture, as well as blobs, drips and smears of paint layered on top of what she observed in the surrounding area and articulated using a controlled palette of hot pink, white, and dark blood tones.
While Galnoor's work exudes a cool, perhaps intellectual detachment, Shpilsher's appears to document the artist's enthusiastic experience as a "participant observer" among the kids in Neve Eliezer. Shpilsher is known as a painter, and these works read like paintings from across the room, but are rough drawings crafted with pastel on black wood, emphasizing light-dark contrast, the urban style and personality of her subject, as well as the mark of the artist's hand.
Kav 16's mission is to bring contemporary art into the community, but this is the first exhibition where the selected works explicitly relate to the neighborhood. Entering the gallery proper, the viewer is immediately struck by Meir Tati's large freehand map applied directly to the wall adjacent to a related video on a small flat-screen monitor. In the video, a man resembling an exterminator with yellow tanks and tubing lays a stream of powdered yellow pigment on the sidewalks, gutters and steps of Neve Eliezar. Tati basically used the same technique - glue on the wall sprinkled with powdered pigment - to create his map, complete with a yellow demarcation, presumably the same route the tank toter in the video illustrates.
While the other works in the show are more traditional, Tati's performance-video-installation is deliciously non-commercial, shifting the emphasis from art as a commodity to art as an experience, and not least to the pigment itself.
Across the room, Efrat Galnoor's hot pink four-paneled architectural paintings also seem to comment on modernist ideas - a story about paint, the process of painting and the motifs of the movement such as drips layered on top of the local manifestation of modernist architecture.
While the female artists here show gutsy, bold work, Roy Mordechay's paintings - also illuminating the neighborhood - present a misty softness that is childlike, dreamy, ephemeral and even a bit spooky. There's a transparency to these works that makes children playing seem like ghosts, and backyard views seem like hallucinations.
Mordechay's soft veils of color are a perfect foil to Keren Shpilsher's loud drawings, where the vibrant children of Neve Eliezar appear to be capable of serious mischief, or at least a really good afternoon playing in the street. While Roy Mordechay's work presents the inner space or fantasy world present in the neighborhood, Shplisher's forcefully evokes the reality of Neve Eliezar, especially the youth culture.
Kav 16 Community Gallery for Contemporary Art, Neve Eliezar Community Center, Rehov Sheshet Hayamim 6, Tel Aviv. Open Sunday through Thursday, 18-20. Tel: (03) 730-0360. "Diffusion" will be on view until February 22.