Women with a past

Three veteran painters, each identifiable by an exceedingly pronounced artistic raison d'etre, Ruth Schloss, Claire Yaniv and Farideh Golbahar, are currently showing extensive solo exhibitions.

By GIL STERN STERN GOLDFINE
November 30, 2006 09:36
clair art 88 298

clair art 88 298. (photo credit: )

Three veteran painters, each identifiable by an exceedingly pronounced artistic raison d'etre, Ruth Schloss, Claire Yaniv and Farideh Golbahar, are currently showing extensive solo exhibitions. A retrospective of drawings, paintings and several mixed-media panels by Schloss at the Ein Harod Art Museum provides the visitor with an entr e into her life via her art, as a defender of the disadvantaged and an ardent advocate of an egalitarian society. Born into an assimilated liberal household in Nuremberg in 1922, Schloss, throughout her long artistic career, has not only maintained but intensified her family's progressive socialist viewpoints. Schloss came to Palestine in 1937 and settled with her parents on a farm in Kfar Shmaryahu. After graduating from the Bezalel Academy and a year in Paris, she joined Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan in 1944. But in 1953, immediately after the Prague trials, she, together with her husband-to-be Benjamin Cohen and several other kibbutz members, were expelled from the collective because of their refusal to depart from an unflinching loyalty to the Soviet regime. A year later she joined the Israel Communist Party and became a devoted member until, disillusioned, she left in 1968. Despite the break, Schloss remained a staunch believer in the basic formulas of socialist doctrine, a conviction that would have a far-reaching effect on her being and influence her art. Schloss's talent as an illustrator and graphic artist is evident in the museum's entrance foyer in which works from the late 1930s and 1940s are displayed. Sketches in brush and ink, graphite and a handful of watercolors of farms and surrounding landscapes, especially those of rabbits and a donkey called Vania, are rendered in a rapid linear and wash style that effectively maintains the subject's essential characteristics. Schloss's exceptional observational prowess and deft hand, perfectly honed as the years progressed, were used to document the hardships faced by new immigrants in tented communities and crowded transit camps in the early days of the state. In the 1980s and again in 2000, the intifada uprisings would also lead Schloss to the easel to render a good number of representational and symbolic works that in their way denounced Israel's political and military actions. Although Schloss has often been grouped with other artists (Ofek, Bezem, Knispel, Weil) whose politics expressed a preference for leftist ideology and their art the curious mannerisms of Socialist Realism, little, if any of that type of art in its purist form is displayed in the Schloss retrospective. Area 9 (1965), an oil painting dedicated to the demolition of Israeli-Arab houses and the expropriation of the land to make way for the city of Carmiel, carries a definite socio-political message, but the content is filled with symbolic elements of destruction and pallid images of Arab women looking on from the background. The bold heroism embedded in images of sacrifice and contentment associated with accepted Soviet norms is replaced here by the cataclysmic contortions of burned wood, upturned fields and a doleful Greek chorus. Schloss's socialist philosophy and her seeking to right the underprivileged, unemployed, the aged and the infirm have tempered the melodramatic content of her pictures. From the very first gallery to the very last, the viewer is subjected to a phalanx of closed-lipped, acerbic-looking portraits, most of just people from the ranks. The only thing that saves the display is an appreciation of Schloss's excellent rendering skills as she uses both line and diluted color sparingly. Even the sketches of her babies are filled with the Sturm und Drang of carrying the weight of the world on their little shoulders. An uncompromising striving for equality and a profound sense of justice are the forces embedded in each and every painting and drawing that Schloss has created. One could argue that Schloss's social agenda has diminished the quality of her art by keeping her sights only on one element of life, while others could consider it a fundamental, necessary act. (Museum of Art, Ein Harod). Till December 9. An extensive Hebrew-English catalog available. INACCURATELY PUBLICIZED as a retrospective, the Claire Yaniv exhibition at the Janco-Dada Museum, Ein Hod, is more of a mini-survey of her paintings from the 1950s till the present, rather than a comprehensive assessment of her half century at the easel. In a small mezzanine arcade, she shows several colorful, but static and unrevealing portraits, while the museum's major exhibition space contains the bulk of the display. In addition, in an entrance foyer are a handful of unexciting representative canvases. Born in Basra, Yaniv grew up in Baghdad and came here in 1928. In addition to her studies with Gliksberg and Frenkel, she took classes with Stematsky and Streichman. Among the founders of the Ein Hod artists village in 1953, Yaniv was also an active member in both the Group of Ten (1951-1960) and the Aklim Group (1974), two heterogeneous clusters of artists who rebelled against the lyrical abstract style of New Horizons and who were dedicated to documenting the local landscape, its light, textures and atmosphere. Before she succumbed to painting fiery abstract compositions in the early 1970s, works that purged, however, the chaotic linear expressiveness of Zaritsky and friends, her journey traversed the Israeli countryside and seashore upon which she based a range of representational pictures, several of which, including a series of Soutine-inspired watercolors, are included in the exhibition. Among Yaniv's early figurative paintings, Women, dated 1955, stands apart. In it a trio of female nudes interact in a bordello-like setting and whose stocky anatomical references reside in works by Picasso and Gauguin. The group is surrounded by an assortment of angular bits of fabric and carpets. Except for their range of hues, Yaniv's late non-objective paintings (Growth, 1991; Cruel Summer, 1994; Order and Disorder, 1992) inspired by the Ein Hod landscape and atmosphere are all pretty much the same: energetic compositions that begin with a concealed central shape whose solid edges explode into a rash of speckled fragments that are layered over the entire surface in harmonies of either warm or cool tones. The exhibition also includes several simplified figure drawings on glazed enamel plates and genre scenes embedded in ceramic tiles. (Janco-Dada Museum, Ein Hod). Till December 30. English-Hebrew catalog available. DEALING WITH principles of aesthetics and nature, Farideh Golbahar (b. Iran, 1942) works simultaneously in instinctive and cerebral camps as she translates experience and memory into paintings that bond narrative and decorative elements into one artistic statement. Before and After the Rose, paintings from 1970 to 2006 at Tel Aviv's Zaritsky Artists Pavilion, traces Farideh's work from early color field abstractions and dreamy countrysides to her multi-panel paintings that emerged in the late 1990s. The latter, a cycle that has become her painterly signature, contains anywhere from four to eight same-size segments organized in one frame. They are delightfully ordered investigations into various pictorial idioms of the landscape as Farideh calls up references from the history of art in both Eastern and Western cultures. The source of these late works is apparent in a number of composite oils on paper entitled Made in Israel, 1988-1992. In them Farideh dilutes her medium to describe in separate panels a variety of subjects in local colors from still life, palms and flower arrangements to ornamental landscapes and rectangles of pure hue. In time these loosely composed pictures would become the structured paintings in which she conducts a painterly dialogue with romantic and impressionist masters, particularly Monet and Seurat. Her uninhibited pointillist studies and chaotic linear designs retain an excellent compositional relationship with the long views of lush, magical gardens and fields of poppies arranged into patterns of dense vertical and horizontal lines. Although not enough work has been mounted for the show to be considered a retrospective, it is worth a visit if only to view her multi-paneled landscapes. (Zaritsky Artists Pavilion, 9 Alharizi, Tel Aviv). Till December 3. Catalog available.


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