Dada revisited

Like a jazz quartet in which each member does his own thing but in the final few bars meet for a closing climax, Kantor assembles divergent items, materials and non-objective volumes and uses them to form an integrated whole.

swell art 88 298 (photo credit: Helena Rubinstein Pavilion)
swell art 88 298
(photo credit: Helena Rubinstein Pavilion)
Idiosyncratic sculptural environments by Zvika Kantor are bizarre inventions filled with oodles of creative energy. His Hotel - It May be a Verbal Riddle! is not only fascinating, but arouses the viewer's curiosity by insisting that he scrutinize conventional things in unusual, eclectic settings. After spending several minutes roaming the gallery, I pointed an imaginary finger at an early Dadist, Francis Picabia. Like Picabia, Kantor is absorbed in projects that amalgamate semiotic concepts and irrational thought with the blunt reality of industrial products. He combines machine technology with the supernatural, gives them poetic titles and comes up with a Dadaist art form infused with theatrical expression. Kantor's introductory work engulfs the entire ground floor gallery. A young forest, sinister for some, a refuge for others, is assembled from scores of floor-to-ceiling branchless trunks of birch and fir, a number of them charred and others leafing, an obvious metaphor for life and death or fact and fiction. Installed within the thicket are three unrelated sculptural elements. The first, entitled Well-lubricated Concert Played with Blind Obedience, is a frightening wagon-mounted medieval crossbow described in flashy colors as a flying insect firing an aluminum casing and bicycle handlebars mounted on a steel flange. The second, In Pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone, is a colossal aluminum and cardboard helmet accompanied by a mounted bird. And the third, To Narrow the Gap of Indecision, takes the form of a comical ghost made from undulating white fiberglass, with illuminated eyes and a slithering meander across the forest floor. The exhibition's major piece is the enormous The Swell, the Ripeness, and the Ebb Tide, a compilation of sights, sounds and ready-mades containing a fair amount of symbols and layers of illustrative allegories. Emanating from a pair of stiletto-heeled shoes clutching a revolving disk (reminiscent of Picabia's watercolor Optophone) is a gaping, jaw-like contraption and an upside-down bridge of an ocean-going vessel. A gargantuan, green-toned skull, Mickey Mouse-cum-Darth Vader, is mounted as a decorative prow for Kantor's ship of fools, while an old suitcase sporting a taxi sign launches the work from the other side. Stabilizers take the form of two axes cleaved into a flat shape that could be the ship's forward section. Like a jazz quartet in which each member does his own thing but in the final few bars meet for a closing climax, Kantor assembles divergent items, materials and non-objective volumes and uses them to form an integrated whole. Paralleling the musical sounds, his works, in sections and in their entirety, demand various levels of understanding. Most importantly, they reach out and successfully push the viewer's emotional and intellectual buttons. A remarkably likeable pterodactyl constructed from iron, rubber, cardboard and paint hovering above the gallery has little resemblance to the fierce flying predators of the dinosaur age and is more likely to be remembered as a stuffed replica from a museum of natural history. The fact that the killer reptile is attached to a metal sign - Hotel - printed in a gothic font, only reinforces Kantor's game of how we see images, what their true meanings could be and what we associate with them. Regrettably, Kantor's last work in the show, Release of a Gland from Unexpected Pleasure, a visionary union of a blubbery, organic foot attached to a motorized rig for pumping oil and a diver entering a fuselage, is somewhat underdeveloped and not very exciting. The show has been mounted with minimal Hebrew texts only. A catalogue is in the making. (Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, 6 Tarsat, Tel Aviv.) FROM THE deep recesses of her emotional and social persona, Nurit David brings forth solitary images and running narratives whose meanings are so brittle and so bewildering they are often difficult to untie. David has always painted pictures of an enigmatic nature, but the large oils and works on paper in her current exhibition, Eternal Summer, include events far beyond the boundaries of comprehension. Yet, despite these subjective obstacles, the paintings, a combination of rustic, ludicrously odd landscapes and domestic genre, hold together as artistic statements. David meshes a Northern European painting language of detailed vistas with a whimsical Japanese family surrounded by luxuriant gardens and geometric dwellings rendered in a simplified, graphic style. Played against a background of an omnipresent, Gauguin-inspired mountain whose segments promote elements of both Eastern and Western cultures, her characters living in a secluded valley go about their daily chores. The contrasting concepts of the ordinary and the outlandish, of reality and dreams, of hope and despair, are all basic to David's paintings. The underlying psychological dilemma is there for the visitor to unravel. Both her large canvases and watercolors are obsessive manifestations of a compulsive mind. They are filled with numerous diverse symbols, icons and household vignettes that all too often do not engage one another, pictorially or subjectively. A cow fenced in by a fiery red dress is topped by oversized pumpkins, a seafarer gives his landlocked neighbors a bottle of wine using a fishing pole across a dense, floral, separation fence. Tilled fields, craggy riverbeds, beetles, egg cartons and croissants all blossom in David's psyche and somehow find their way into her compositions. David was recently awarded the prestigious Rapaport Prize worth $70,000; half is given in cash while the remainder is set aside for mounting an exhibition (and printing a catalogue) next year at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. (Givon Art Gallery, 35 Gordon, Tel Aviv.) Till April 29. AFTER VIEWING her flamboyant madcap canvases, it was not surprising to learn that Ilana Gal studied graphic design and only recently began to paint. Her vertical formats contain single figures accompanied by an assortment of birds handled in a bright, humorous and decorative manner. Human anatomy and facial features are flattened and rescaled into rectangles, triangles and circles and then punctuated by linear patterns and textured details. In most cases Gal retains a strong graphic hold on her drawing as well as in the accompanying ornamental elements. (Center for the Performing Arts, King Saul Blvd., Tel Aviv.) Till April 10.