Mash-up of form and function

Deliciously tactile surfaces beckon at a chic new gallery in Neve Tzedek.

art 298 (photo credit:)
art 298
(photo credit: )
For some time now, Neve Tzedek has been the low-key Tel Aviv neighborhood popular among wealthy creative types, but surprisingly without a "serious" fine art gallery. Now a new space, Tavi Dresdner Gallery, lives up to the neighborhood's reputation, showcasing quirky contemporary art with a uniquely Israeli sensibility, in a glamorous airy space. This past Thursday night, Tavi Dresdner opened its doors for a festive inaugural exhibition: Seven Sculptures. Many of the Israeli art world's infamous movers and shakers - plus young artists, anonymous French, German and English-speaking art lovers and curious local residents, showed up to see what gallery director Tamar Dresdner chose for her first exhibition (on view through April 27). "Seven Sculptures" includes objects crafted out of a diverse range of non-traditional materials: black Styrofoam, fur, dirt, glass, metal and fake flowers "growing" out of a murky tub. All the objects look like the work of trained artists who know how to sculpt beautifully, but with a playful - or naughty - edginess that befits the neighborhood as well as the elegantly buzz-cut Dresdner. While the gallery is consciously polished and precisely designed, visitors to this gallery will require serious will power to resist touching these deliciously tactile surfaces, even if just to determine what they're actually seeing. As artist Sharon Glazberg, famous for her "Sea Inside" exhibition last spring at the Kav 16 Community Gallery and showing two sculptures here, noted, these objects are about the Israeli obsession with "creating a new fantasy", often using non-art materials. In the Dresdner gallery, this idea was especially visible in the case of Sasha Serber's towering Batman and Elad Kopler's fur vehicle. Serber's monumental Batman towers above the viewer like a Stalin statue might have in Stalingrad, evoking a traditional sense of dictatorial power through the sheer scale of the work as well as through carefully articulated details such as bulging calf muscles and an extended arm in the imperial gesture associated with historical figures such as Roman emperors and Hitler. This leader, Batman, wears a tool belt and a cape, but on inspection, seems to be half-robot with mechanical nuts and bolts in lieu of knees. There's a compelling incongruence at work here - while truly imposing, this statue is easily recognizable as the comic-book superhero and is masterfully carved from smooth black Styrofoam, exuding a sense of lightness despite the figure's massive muscles and classic evocation of masculine power. Serber's Batman is a kind of joke, but an aesthetically and even an intellectually satisfying one. Kopler's violet-mauve fur cart is an even more overt "mash-up" of forms and functions, asserting the "pointless" nature of art or as Glazberg says: "the material's desire to be something else." Sitting on the floor like an oversized child's abandoned toy that has since toppled over, the fur vehicle combines airplane-like wings, tank-like treads, and rugged Hummer wheels, jutting out from all sides at different angles. Walking around the sculpture felt like experiencing a cubist painting in three fluffy dimensions. As Kopler explains: "It's a machine which is half toy and half instrument of war" that also demonstrates how his process of creating art is "really like playing." The artist also suggests that "war is like a game" and viewers might identify this purposefully juvenile notion of violence in the fur sculpture. Perhaps as an anti or simply awareness of war statement, Kopler also quipped: "an airplane can't have hair-it's not aerodynamic" alluding to the consciously non-functional quality of his "war machine." Other sculptures, including Rachel Giladi's "pillow" blown out of frosted glass and Glazberg's horses with ridiculously elongated stilt-like legs, continue this theme of materials that are not what they seem or that have been uncannily distorted for the sake of expression. While playful on the surface, "Seven Sculptures" can also be viewed as a more provocative sociological statement, demonstrating the underlying depth beneath the glitz and glamour of Israeli contemporary art. Tavi Dresdner Gallery 24 Achva Street Tel Aviv Telephone: 077-7870605 Open: Monday through Thursday: 10-18, Friday: 10-14, through 27 April.