The joys of polyglot

Being accepted as member of the J'lem Artists Association is not exactly an accolade.

By MEIR RONNEN
September 25, 2007 07:17
yonah levy art 88 224

yonah levy art 88 224. (photo credit: )

 
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Being accepted as a member of the Jerusalem Artists Association is not exactly an accolade, but it at least provides each "newcomer" with an opportunity for a public introduction. This time around, the eight new members whose works are now on view at the Jerusalem Artists House, are all well-trained artists, most of them Bezalel Academy graduates. A number have completed post-graduate degrees at foreign art schools. Most have something fresh to say about the language of art. They were picked by curators Lena and Oded Zaidel. One of the most unusual contributions is a series of huge drawings in red chalk on photo paper by Reuven Zahavi that have a programmatic, even political, title Hissufim (army slang for emptying a landscape). The minimalist drawings powerfully represent what might be a mix of terraced hillsides and desert sand dunes, bereft of any sign of flora or fauna. The tendentious title aside, these works are superbly brought off, each drawing quite different from the next in both composition and viewpoint, despite the similar technique and method employed. Small low-key landscapes in oils by Rachael Cobert Weiner are of great economy of means, their often monumental compositions defying their small scale. Their very low-toned palette of color harmonies, rendered with the simplest of touches, mixes a certain romantic charm with purely abstract forces. Several are especially impressive. Many ceramicists delight in casting from real objects and painting the ceramic in trompe l'oeuil colors to the point where you cannot tell that they are clones. Ruth Schreiber has this gift: Just look at her group of old shoes. But Schreiber is not content to rely solely on such tricks. She offers several conceptual installations, the boldest being a depiction of birth: A rather too solid ceramic baby emerges from a skeletal pelvis attached to nothing but a spinal column. There are strong compositions and lively handling in canvases by Nava Revital, all of family members caught taking a nap, but they are let down by a rawness of color. The tiniest sculptures of figures and settings I have ever seen, all carved from untreated wood or made of papier mache, are the work of Dina Berman. Their truly minute dimensions immediately force one to think about one's own relative minuteness, our world being just one of a myriad of possible planets in the immensity of just our own galaxy. One series set on a ledge gives new meaning to the title: Shelf Life. Photographer Anatoly Davidkovitch raises questions of identity in a series of remarkable depictions of a near-naked androgynous figure of a young man (?) posing in a series of what might have been cheesecake presentations if a more luscious model was set in more glamorous surroundings. The subject looks out at us as if to say, nu? What do you think of me? What do you think I am? Oils painted from photographs of her neighborhoods (some clearly not Israeli) by Noa Charuvi dance the line between formalization and depiction. High color predominates in her rich depictions of playground structures and a wonderful night scene of a suburban underpass and buildings (in England?) is every bit as good as when she displayed it several years ago. A large video projection by Sharon Balaban was not working when I was at the gallery; and neither was a mini-video based on Hebrew typography by Joshua Lederberg which is not part of this show but set in a poster window in the wall on the street, evidently because of Shabbat. A pity, because Saturday is the only day one can visit this venue with ease. UP IN the little mezzanine gallery of the Artists House is a memorial show of landscape paintings in oils and a few mixed-media works on paper by the late veteran art teacher Yehoshua Hass (b. Belgium 1921, died Jerusalem 2006). It is presented by Ruth Apter-Gabriel of the Israel Museum. Hass fled the Nazis and his long sojourn in this country saw him evolve into a New Horizons semi-abstractionist. The best of his works have the soft, bluish harmonies of Israeli painting of the 1950s and the best of them skillfully couple flat forms with an illusion of depth in narrow defiles. Some are possibly of Ein Kerem and one is an identifiable view of Motza with its reddish chimney forming part of the composition. The show covers the various stages of his oeuvre. DOWN IN the entrance gallery is yet another Nidbach show, this time by sabra Inbal-Yona Levy, who gives us staged glimpses of herself living walk-on roles in the mythic American Dream, from herself in a color still of a prom couple to a video of her practicing to be a cheerleader. Taking the mickey out of Israeli mores would have been more to the point. (Jerusalem Artists House). Till October 6. IF YOU are more skilled than I am at negotiating all the obstacles to traffic in downtown Jerusalem, you might try visiting the Israel Museum's Ticho House, which can reached via Rehov Harav Kook. The Ticho gallery currently houses monochrome drawings in charcoal or graphite by one of Israel's most skilled urbanscape painters, Yemima Ergas, who has an excellent color sense. But these largely grayish works are all details of imaginary city blocks, some seen in plan, others in a perspective bird's-eye view. No, I haven't seen the show, only the disappointingly tiny catalog. But it looks interesting. From China via Denmark "Made in China," a show of more than 100 works by contemporary Chinese artists, has opened at the Israel Museum's Weisbord Entrance Pavilion. It's all for the most part immediately recognizable as Chinese, but its basic language is international, demonstrating once again that artists everywhere are now part of the global village. The international aspect of the show is underwritten by the fact that it is all from the collection of a European businessman operating out of New York, and that the show is a package recently mounted at the Louisiana Museum of Denmark, which also produced the informative and fully illustrated hardcover English catalog. Most of the works were made over the last decade or so and several of the artists now make routine appearances in the catalogs of auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's. But the show is thoroughly Chinese in many references that range from calligraphy and classical landscape painting, to Chairman Mao, patriotic communist theater, the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution and the heroes of the stand against government tanks and think tanks. There are sexy nudes, also a sign of resistance to still current laws governing "decency." An illustrated review of the show will appear on these pages on September 28.

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