Cheek on high street

It's difficult to miss the large painting of a nude in the window of Tova Osman's Gallery in Tel Aviv - part of the new art exhibition Tova Tahat Tova.

tal slutzker 298.88 (photo credit: )
tal slutzker 298.88
(photo credit: )
It's difficult to miss the large painting of a nude in the window of Tova Osman's Gallery on Ben-Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv. This eye-grabbing yet well-crafted oil - the latest in 20-year-old painter Tal Slutzker's oeuvre - forms a one-painting exhibition called Tova Tahat Tova. Unlike some contemporary artists, Slutzker continues the noble lineage of high art, particularly the tradition of figurative painting. Like most artists through Western art history, Slutzker is compelled by the nude figure but also likes to spin off old masterworks that are not nudes. For several years, Slutzker studied under Zachar Sherman, who trained him well enough for Gil Goldfine to begin his review of the then 13-year-old in 2000 with the word "remarkable." Next, Slutzker painted under the tutelage of Israel Hirschberg, famous for his style of naturalistic painting that unabashedly asserts itself as a formal object - works that can be viewed as Modernist experiments with color and composition, despite their recognizable imagery. For the painting in the gallery window, however, Slutzker didn't study a painting in a museum or even his own, observable three-dimensional reality. Instead, the oil painting that Tova Tahat Tova is based on is an image that Slutzker found on an Internet porn site. This painting, which Slutzker renders primarily in black and white with almost indiscernible hints of yellow, blue and red, features a female nude lying face down in a bathtub. Pushing into the foreground - forcefully projecting closest to the viewer - is a relatively large but lovely tahat, or derriere. The transparent water appears to caress her body like fabric, playing a game of "reveal and conceal" that recalls the folds of fabric hanging off ancient Greek statuary such as The Three Graces, or even Boticelli's reinvention of the type in his Renaissance painting Primavera. Yet, while Slutzker doesn't conceal much, his flat zones of rich, velvety black masterfully imply depth in an uncomfortable manner. Slutzker says he considers sex an apt metaphor for the process of art making, the "search for a satisfying composition" paralleling the desire for sexual gratification. Curator Yuval Caspi chose the exhibition's title, recognizing the multitude of possible readings and interpretations of Tova Tahat Tova. The gallery director, Tova Osman, a dignified yet fun-loving grandmother, was at first a bit uneasy with the possibility that the title could refer to her tahat . However, as Osman nobly notes: "Yuval is the curator of the window for six months. He can put whatever he wants there and can call it whatever he wishes." Caspi claims he chose the title for its primary connotation of doing favors - one favor in exchange for another - since this is how the art world operates. Tova Tahat Tova places a bold, sensual image in the visual consciousness of busy Ben-Yehuda street, inverting the convention of established Tel Aviv galleries, which typically present a blank fa ade. The art world usually prefers not to place art on a street-level window alongside shoes and other banal commodities. But Slutzker doesn't mind if his provocative piece stops traffic, declaring: "The thing that's interesting is the viewer's reaction, not the artist's intention." Tova Tahat Tova continues through November 30. Tova Osman Gallery: Rehov Ben-Yehuda 100, Tel Aviv.