Art in all the wrong places

An exhibit explores the fine boundaries between art and advertising.

superman photo 88.29 (photo credit: )
superman photo 88.29
(photo credit: )
After graduating from Bezalel, artists possess the skills to create avant-garde art. Survival in the "real world," however, is a different matter. For many, jobs in advertising are the best way to achieve a stable income. Crip!, an advertising company, merged art and a livable salary when it asked independent curator, artist and comic book art teacher Yuval Caspi to create an exhibition of contemporary art showcasing the intersection - and boundaries - between fine art and advertising. The exhibition is located at Crip!'s headquarters in Tel Aviv. Caspi enthusiastically accepted the mission to curate an exhibition in a non-conventional art space. "I like to put art where people don't expect it, like on their way to a meeting at a office building," he says. According to Caspi, even though American (and American-style) big business present a message of "freedom and democracy," the proliferation of mega-brands actually limits consumers' ability to choose. For "Brand Art" Caspi asked 78 artists without gallery representation to create a work incorporating an existing logo of their choice. Unlike in a gallery setting, the artists set their own price and the organizers do not receive a commission on works sold. Some of the most creative logos in the show were pulled from the religious, not corporate, world. For example, a few works suggest use the Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Shneerson's face as a logo. In one work by Yossi Lemel, the "Bedatz Yerushalyim" symbol for kosher products is stamped on a pig. Lemel seems to imply that consumers would buy anything as long as it's accompanied by the "correct" label. In Noya Sagiv's series of photographs "A Day of Grief is a Day of Joy," the viewer discovers an attractive female superhero mocking the Azrieli Towers. As the tallest skyscraper in the Middle East and the biggest mall in Israel, the Azrieli complex represents the triumph of the free market, among other "American" values. The pattern of her white fishnet tights echoes the structured grid of the buildings' windows behind her, emphasizing the figure's own power to stand firmly on her two feet. Yet in Sagiv's next photo, the heroine lies in the fetal position, weak and cocooned in her cape, apparently as a critique of the architecture's power. Caspi admitted that he "expected the artists to be more critical of corporate brainwashing," but many of the artists seem quite comfortable in the fantasyland of advertising. Most artists were born in the 1970s and grew up in an atmosphere of labels, so that the aesthetics of advertising seem second nature to them. While he acknowledges that commercials can be "very artistic," Caspi himself calls advertising the "death of the soul of art." For the most part, "Brand Art" is a pleasure to look at - glossy, sexy, fun and exactly what marketers know people like. The viewer might walk out of the exhibition with a more conscious sense of the advertising world's tricks after seeing them spotlighted on Crip!'s walls - or even with a heightened ability to recognize "real art" when it's on display. Crip! 20 Ben Avigdor Street. Tel.: (03) 561-4525 Hours: Sun. - Thur.: 12:00 - 14:00; Fri.: 11:00 -14:00. There will be a gallery talk with the curator, Yuval Caspi and some of the artists at noon on the closing day, February 17.