Drawing the line

Third biennale of drawing opens at four Jerusalem venues.

ben ami art 88 224 (photo credit: )
ben ami art 88 224
(photo credit: )
Don't bother rushing to see Traces, the third biennale of Israeli drawing held in Jerusalem. But don't miss it either. While there is nothing in it that will take your breath away, there are lots of things worth seeing. The works are at four different Jerusalem venues: The Jerusalem Artists House (the biggest space and the biggest resultant selection) on Rehov Shmuel Hanagid; Agrippas 12, a small cooperative gallery of Jerusalem artists; the Jerusalem Print Workshop's gallery at Shivtei Yisrael 38 (not open on Shabbat); and the Barbur Gallery at Rehov Shirizli 6 (closed on Shabbat). The selection, organized by curator Dalia Manor, is the biggest so far: 127 participants at the Artists House; 17 at Agrippas; 12 at Barbur; and six at the Print gallery. Every exhibitor is represented in the illustrated Hebrew-English catalog. Some of the Agrippas people get only a half page, an unfair exception. I have the impression that the majority exhibiting are women, not that this is significant. Few of the participants are master draftspersons in the classic sense; none reach the ankles of Durer, Rembrandt or Van Gogh. Few demonstrate anything new about drawing, as Van Gogh did. Instead, as Manor herself points out in the introduction, interest lies chiefly in the mundane instruments employed, from felt markers to humble ballpoint pens; and in the results obtained from drawing on different surfaces, particularly on wood, a favorite Israeli support. Once upon a time, all artists drew and prepared studies and cartoons for bigger works in color. But the drawing has long been rightfully regarded as a work itself. Its sketchy bravura, whether in wash or crayon or marker, is often judged by the liveliness of its handling. Some of the least interesting works are composed of the instruments themselves, like a hanging construction studded with black ballpoint pens in the Artists House foyer; or (at Agrippas) a large drawing board covered in dividers and compasses, brush and pens, all linked by a geometry of strings covering a classical-style rendering. Several dramatic grisaille works rendered in oils cross the line into painting. Artists have been drawing from photographs ever since the invention of photography. There's a drawing from a photograph at Agrippas informed by a sly wit: the subject is a camera. At the Artists House, there is a commendable attempt to group approaches and techniques: Illustrators and illustrative art works are to be found in the mezzanine, while ballpoint works are grouped in the entrance gallery along with other compositions in which masses are formed of a myriad of closely hatched lines (all shows till January 19).