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One of the most enjoyable things about an interesting work of art is its immediacy. Just as it takes a grandmaster only a few seconds to take in a chess problem, a good work of art, like the first few bars of a Mozart symphony, tells you at once that it repays further attention.
If you miss immediacy and are tired of curatorial essays and conceptual narratives, try visiting the Israel Museum's Merzbacher Galleries to view curator Meira Lehmann's show of nearly 200 prints on paper, portfolios made by 18 very different artists at the Gottesman Etching Center of Kibbutz Cabri. It is a show shared with the Tel Aviv Museum.
The immediacy of the better etchings at once separates them from the nachshleppers. Some are in unadorned line. Yes, less is more, but then again, not always. Some large prints made by visiting American Jim Dine in conjunction with the printshop's director, Ofra Raif, are complex in technique and have the effect of paintings; but they are still models of clarity. Dine stands head and shoulders above all the others on view.
Regrettably, some of the Israeli printmakers represented here suffer from horror vacuii: they tease the surfaces of their plates into submission, covering every square centimeter with marks and textures. One of the most delightful prints in the show is Alex Kremer's Under Control, just a meandering but richly rendered line of a road with a childlike cypher for a vehicle. But in the catalog is a version of it in another state, with a textured background that detracts rather than adds something to the strong minimalist version.
Not every painter or conceptualist can make the jump to this exacting medium, even with the help of the skilled printmaster. Neither Yigal Ozeri nor Sigalit Landau succeed in impressing. Despite, or perhaps because of, the complexity of their prints.
One turns with pleasure to slight but elegant urban landscapes in line by Dani Karavan and Menashe Kadishman, works that bear no relation to their main oeuvre. Traces, a recent Karavan series, some in a mixture of drypoint and aquatint, deal solely with drawing and composition; numbers Vll and IX are particularly good. Kadishman's line etchings, some hand-colored, are minimalist efforts that transform mundane Tel Aviv rooftop views into original little statements. Take a look at Laundry Room or Blinds.
The dean of print artists here is nonagerian Noemi Smilansky, with etchings to "Candles," a story by Agnon. Others in this array are Ofer Lellouche, Jan Rauchwerger, Elie Abrahami, Sharon Poliakine, Philip Rantzer, Zadok Ben David, Micha Ullman, Hila Lulu Lin, Deganit Berest, Asaf Ben Zvi, Yehiel Shemi, Michal Goldman and Dina Kahana-Gueller; some of them took part in a workshop with Jim Dine.
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