Two new permanent exhibits are now open to the public at the Israel Museum Jerusalem.
By HELENE EISENSTEIN
In the midst of massive construction and renovation, The Israel Museum has managed to install two new site-specific outdoor pieces in the Billy Rose Art Garden. James S. Snyder, the Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of The Israel Museum says, "These two installations by American artist Mark Dion and Israeli artist Micha Ullman embrace very different aspects of our ongoing commitment to provide our visitors with exciting experiences with contemporary art across the landscape of our 20-acre campus."
Both Dion's "Antiquarian Book Shop" and Ullman's "Equinox" blur the lines between art exhibition and construction by utilizing the same industrial materials used in renovating the museum grounds.
Ullman's innovative earthworks designs, which he has created over the past four decades, merited him the prestigious 2009 Israel Prize. "Equinox" is Ullman's latest installation and the Israel Museum is thrilled to be partnered with him.
Walking up to "Equinox," the installation looks like little more than a cement bench in the midst of equally gray gravel. Amitai Mendelson, the curator of Israeli Art, stated, "Equinox works well with the landscape. It disguises itself as something that isn't a sculpture from far away." In fact, the subterranean void is, essentially, a concrete and glass space of 5 square meters, which is built proportionally like a room.
However, the viewer and the sun work together to create a sensation of "looking down to see up," which is the art of "Equinox." With a reflection of the sun and clouds projected on the walls and floor below, the viewer can experience their own shadow blending with the heavens above.
According to Mendelson, Ullman combines, "abstraction, minimalism, and figurative art" in this subterranean canvas. He claims that viewers can get a lot from "Equinox" if they give it the time it needs. "The piece is about the passage of time. It is not an instant piece; the viewer needs to have patience. If they do, they are rewarded with a spiritual and intriguing experience."
"Equinox" interacts with other pieces at the Israel Museum, both above and below ground. On a subterranean level, the shadows and depth of Ullman's piece correspond with the ancient Qumran scrolls in the nearby underground Shrine of the Book. The apocalyptic battle between the sons of light and sons of darkness in the scrolls are reminiscent of the subtle war between shadow and light contained in "Equinox."
Around the corner from it sits James Turrell's "Space That Sees" (1992). Also experimenting with capturing the sky and using its light as art, Turrell's work forces the viewer to look up to see the sky, while Ullman forces eyes downward to look up.
A few meters away from Ullman's vault sits Mark Dion's "Antiquarian Book Shop," an installation that tries to shatter the accepted norms of history and collective culture. Ranging from volumes of Plato and Kant, travel guides for Africa, hooks displaying masking tape and screwdrivers, and the hefty volume of Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Dion's cultural collage is locked inside a small shed. The viewer can study the cultural artifacts through a few windows, peering in to see the volumes and stamps ranging many periods and continents.
As opposed to peering in to see abstraction, such as in Ullman's installation, Dion allows the viewer to study the contents of "Antiquarian Book Shop," which exposes the common threads shared by people worldwide.
Both Dion and Ullman's installations truly engage the viewer, making them active participants in the creation of art. Although the Israel Museum physically installed "Antiquarian Book Shop" and "Equinox," they require a patient, open-minded viewer and plenty of sunlight to work their magic.
For more information on visiting the Israel Museum call (02) 670-8811 or visit imj.org.il
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