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One of the most alarming invitations ever received from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art was the announcement of an exhibition of works by Ilana Goor. Entitled Hybrids, it is a show that should never have happened.
By definition, a hybrid is a new order born from a cross breeding of two or more varieties of objects. To achieve her assemblages Goor scoured the countryside looking for discarded/decaying equipment (plows, metal tools, millstones and threshing machines) that she could mix and match. The results are cut-and-paste reliefs and free-standing works that demonstrate little original invention. But scale and the rustic quality of the arte povera materials provide her panels with a concept of memory that slinks into our consciousness via the back door. They become collective reminders of what was once an honest idea, one that we have seen over and over again. Goor does not say anything new nor does she proficiently deal with the fundamentals of sculpture.
Born in Tiberias in 1936 to an established, achievement-oriented Zionist family, Goor's formative years were spent in a number of kibbutzim, notably Ein Harod Meuchad from where, after her mother's death, she decamped at age 13. Pretty much an autodidact, Goor studied jewelry design and metalwork at the Bezalel School for one year (1955-1956) after which she left for the United States, and has been dividing her time between New York and Israel ever since.
Goor has never settled on one creative direction. From quasi-surreal figurative bronzes in the early years to bombastic, functional gold bracelets, rings and necklaces, to metal, glass and leather furniture she has ventured into fields of industrial design as well as fine art. There is little intellectual, symbolic or conceptual spirit in Goor's work; it is in-your-face art, filled with subjective rawness, a sense of hostility and undemanding visual elements.
More than a decade ago, in her remodeled Jaffa house, Goor established a showroom for her wares and called it the Ilana Goor Museum, an institution that has no relationship to what a museum is or should be. No permanent collection, no revolving exhibitions and no ongoing plan to purchase art and store it. It is simply a commercial establishment that hangs art borrowed from friends, displays her furniture and is attached to a gift shop stocked with her metal casts, designs and varia.
Her latest work, Candelabra (2004-2006) is a score or more of flamboyantly processed ready-made candle holders placed together, showroom style. A hodge-podge of grotesque rococo forms and aviary accessories, they are processed with wax and decorated in a barrage of psychedelic colors. What these one-off odd pieces have to do with her farming assemblages or her metal and glass furniture is beyond me.
The full Hebrew-English catalogue covers Goor's entire career and includes works not in this show. One such piece is Woman in the Wind, a larger than-life-female figure shrouded in clumsy folds of bronze. When installed in Tel Aviv's London Park in 1977 it immediately became a controversial item. The questions of how and why a pedestrian work was given a prime Tel Aviv seafront position were addressed; but to no avail. Today this same conundrum is positioned farther south in the Charles Clore Park.
For a person who, to quote the catalog essay, never took herself too seriously as an artist, exhibition curator Sophie Dekel-Caspi has the chutzpah to discuss Woman in the Wind together with the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre and has the temerity to proclaim that Goor's Woman follows trailblazing sculptors like Michelangelo and Rodin who were not afraid to leave traces of the work process in the finished sculpture. What absolute drivel.
Another non-included work is Eagle, a pretentious, inadequately carved, 4.5 meter lump of bronze erected in 2002 on a ready-made concrete pylon in the Herzliya Pituah Marina. How Dekel-Caspi can equate this unbelievably offensive work with Duchampian values and Rodin's powerful Balzac is beyond comprehension. But then again her immodesty goes unchecked as she blatantly relates Goor's sculptures to other important figures like Niki de Saint-Phalle, Barnet Newman, David Smith, Francis Bacon and K te Kollwitz .
The second part of the exhibition includes a range of Goor's gold jewelry, and furniture made from construction site iron and bronze rods overly similar to designs by Thonet, Gaudi and Diego Giacometti. The wooden and metal chairs are medieval except for the inclusion of plexiglas, leather and woven kilims which supposedly plunge them into the pantheon of 20th-century design. Plow Chair, 1996, is the most uninviting piece of sculpted furniture one could imagine. Assembled from pieces of a metal plow, a millstone and wood, it is a torturous-looking accommodation. No thank you, I'd rather stand.
By providing mediocre artisans like Goor with a stage to promote her products, the museum is doing a grave disservice to the people of Tel Aviv - and above all, to itself.
FOR AN exceptional analysis of stylistic alternatives in 20th-century sculpture, take a look at the Helene and Zygfryd Wolloch Collection upstairs in the Simon and Marie Jaglom Pavilion.
Donated to the TAMA a decade ago, the 21 pieces exhibited have been supplemented by several works from the museum's cellars. The survey begins with Suzon, a slick, realistically carved bronze bust by Auguste Rodin, who, following on three centuries of mannerism, academicism and a dash of decadence, restored with his Age of Bronze in 1876, the stylistic integrity lost with the death of Michelangelo in 1564.
Chronologically, the last work in the exhibition is Arnoldo Pomodoro's Sphere, 1985, a highly polished abstract work that encompasses organic and mechanical forms seen through the ripped surface of the shiny bronze globe. In between Rodin and Pomorodo, the Wollochs assembled works by two dozen great sculptors of the period including Giacometti, Arp, Botero, Chadwick, Gonzalez, Lipchitz, Moore and Marini.
The Wollochs had an obvious preference for works that depicted the human form or articulated figurative qualities. Working Model for Reclining Figure: Open Pose, Henry Moore's maquette from 1982, with its pronounced counterpoint of rounded volumes and angular forms, are juxtaposed here with Return of the Prodigal Son by Jacques Lipchitz, a convoluted baroque study of mother and son entwined in a scenario of love and forgiveness. Alberto Giacometti's intensely modeled Small Bust of Diego, 1958, is perfectly described by curator Dorit Yifat as a work that expresses the existentialist experience: man, in his loneliness and vulnerability, defenseless vis- -vis the world.
Unfortunately, the more avant garde styles of the period - surrealism, cubism and constructivism - are not represented. The show traces the course of sculpture from a monolithic representation of reality in static space to works that use space as an active formal element, especially Delta Theme with Two Lines, 1979, a pristine, stainless steel kinetic work by the American George Rickey and Mobile, 1969, a lyrical invention by Alexander Calder.
In its more advanced stages, modernism demanded the human body be used to breed sculptural explorations that eschew explicit features by merely suggesting ideas and impressions. The refined organic monoliths Idol by Jean Arp, Reflecting Ear by Antoine Poncet and the elegantly carved interlocking baroque volumes in Sorel Etrog's Barcarole, 1968, are indicative of the 20th-century severance from its past.
Several pieces are somewhat outside the framework of this traditional display: Lovers by Fernando Botero, a satirical confrontation with the grotesque; and Fruit Bowl, a poorly executed bronze relief by Julio Gonz lez, a pioneering sculptor whose works in iron were defined by his seminal planar and linear studies created with Picasso between 1928-1931. (Tel Aviv Museum of Art, King Saul Blvd.).