An exhibit of last year's cartoons gives a little historical perspective.
By ELLA LEVITT
The news in Israel is never short of dramatic moments, and 2006 certainly didn't disappoint. Last year's headlines kept cartoonists busy, as colorfully illuminated by an annual exhibition of Israeli cartoonists and caricaturists now on display in Holon.
The exhibit, initiated by the Israeli Cartoonist Association three years ago, visually summarizes the political, cultural and social highlights of the year. Originally published in a diverse range of media outlets from the left to the right of the political spectrum, the illustrations leave few topics untouched.
Cartoonist Michel Kichka, chairman of the Association and facilitator of the exhibit, appreciates the longer shelf life this event offers many cartoons. "Cartoons have a one day life. They are published and forgotten," he says. "The idea here was to put them together, and allow the work to become something else-a visual review of strong images, reminding us of what happened in the past year."
While one cartoon in the context of the day's events has an effect on the viewer, the cumulative effect of dozens of cartoons viewed in an exhibition is another experience altogether. The result is a cogent experience of 2006 - its events boiled down to give the year some historical perspective.
For 2004, the exhibition featured the construction of the security fence, while 2005 illustrated the drama of the disengagement from Gaza. Now, some of the most salient images of the year pertain to Ariel Sharon's health saga, the second war in Lebanon, the controversy surrounding the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear ambitions.
Many of the cartoonists represented are graduates of art schools such as Bezalel (although there are notable amateur exceptions), regular contributors to national and local newspapers, and several award-winning illustrators. Visitors expecting high-quality drawings across the board will be disappointed, but several of the drawings are quite beautiful in terms of wit.
The contrast between different types of cartoons is articulated, for example, by the juxtaposition of Yaacov Kirschen drawings (Dry Bones) and Daniel Shkalim cartoons (of Bekehila) side by side on the same wall. Kirschen's well-known and beloved comic strips, which appear in this newspaper, are colorful, rely on text, references to pop culture, and create a cheerful, albeit satiric atmosphere. Shkalim, on the other hand, draws in a more academic style, using a simple black pen. His detailed image of Ahmadinejad in a science lab mixing anti-Semitism from a beaker with other toxic chemicals, is well-crafted but not particularly surprising or provocative. Likewise, images of recognizable Arab leaders hiding under trees while being pelted with Israeli missiles reiterate some of the summer's unfortunate events, but lack subtlety.
Other works in the show, such as Andy Chushu's award-winning anti-drug image of a user snorting cocaine leading straight into her grave, also convey a flat message, but don't benefit from Shkalim's drawing skill.
Perhaps the best works are the images relying on effective graphic design to articulate strong, simple ideas. For example, one of Eyal Eilat's drawings portrays an Orthodox Jew in black garb with dynamite strapped around his chest chasing a boy in a pink leotard, feather boa, and blue eye shadow. While there's a light quality to this drawing, it does not diminish the seriousness of the of the message. In Eilat's drawing, humor allows the viewer to reconsider the tension between the ultra-Orthodox and homosexual communities from a different perspective. Functionally speaking, this is "real" art.
This year as in the past, the exhibition is being held in Holon at the Hankin Campus, a learning center for adults. However, the Israeli Cartoonist Association is currently transforming Holon's municipal library into its new headquarters, and an official Cartoon Museum is slated to open by the end of 2007.
Cartoonists may be inspired or dismayed by the ephemeral nature of their work, but by next year, if all goes as planned, some cartoons will have a permanent home in Israel.
The exhibition is free and open to the public through February 25 at the Hankin Campus of the Holon Theater, Rehov Hankin 109.
Open Sunday through Thursday: 10:00-12:30 and 16:00-19:00, Friday: 10:00-12:30 and Saturday: 11:00-14:00.
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