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At the Harp of David Gallery, just outside the Old City on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, art enthusiasts have the chance to gaze into the eyes of a few of Israel's most prominent leaders in a completely different way than ever before.
Israeli-American artist Dov Goldman has created a series of five distinct portrait canvases that aim to reexamine the identities of deceased Jewish leaders, from Theodore Herzl and David Ben-Gurion to Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin, in order to attempt to change the way people relate to and think about them in the future.
Goldman is urging viewers to ask themselves how they construct and deconstruct their perception of who they think each figure is in comparison to what they really were. The artist has put mindful treatment and effort into painting these past leaders and putting their unique faces front and center for the new analyzation. The portraits are all on a huge scale, much larger than life.
Goldman is striving to prove how applying preconceived notions when viewing each leader on his own, can disrupt the reality of the impression.
"Collectively they [the former national leaders] speak to my perception of who we are as Jews, as well as people, and how we have elevated them to an almost-holiness," Goldman told The Jerusalem Post, explaining the methodology. Through large-scale paintings, Goldman aims to expose how society builds its defining ideas and, conversely, how the public habitually breaks them down.
Consequently, Goldman is hoping the public will begin to identify how perspectives on these iconic figures have changed their personal import and caused Israelis to themselves change as a result. Through the suggested cathartic experience of self-diagnosis via his art, Goldman believes that the viewer will come to question his reality and relationships in life.
"People are caught up in the ideas of what they think of the person," said Goldman as he surveyed the canvases. "How you view this art says more about you than about the art itself."
The series was created over the course of the last six to nine months in Israel after Goldman himself made aliya from New York City. For the Israeli ICONS series, Goldman spent months researching and investing emotion into creating the pieces.
THE PAINTINGS can perhaps be compared to the lifelong portrait series of Andy Warhol, an artist from whom Goldman admits to having drawn considerable influence. The canvases are all painted with a solid color background and each highlights a unique perspective on its subject through color and pose, helping to assist the viewers' reflexive questioning and (re)defining of identities.
"There is no doubt that life imitates art and that art imitates life," Goldman said. And he manifests this idea in each painting, giving every canvas a specific personality and color spectrum in order to separate it from the next; from Herzl's beard and Dayan's eye-patch to Golda's pearl necklace and so on, showing all of the iconic elements that helped to define the public's conception of each figure.
Also on display is a collection of Goldman's photography, sculptures and mixed media pieces. Both the photographs and the wooden collages felt out of place next to the themed portraits. Together, the portraits, photography, sculptures and mixed media, give the impression of representing different periods in Goldman's life, and should be viewed as such, rather than being interpreted on their own.
Still, had Goldman placed a clearer symbolic thread to link the different mediums, he would have had better opportunity to connect with his audience through the play on identities. On the other hand, the range of mediums also demonstrated something of the Jewish need for identification through a diaspora of different approaches. Ultimately, there is no doubt that Goldman's challenging art rests in the right place.
Prices for the ICON canvases range from $3,000 to $4,000, photographs from $400 to $1,250 and sculptures and mixed media from $350 to $1,850. The exhibition of the ICONS series features at David's Harp Gallery in Jerusalem till December 10, 2009.