Picture imperfect

Unadulterated exercises in the making of techno-art develop quickly into tedious, self-satisfied personal nostalgia.

The greater majority of video, photographic and mixed-media works in It's Me: Autobiography in Contemporary Israeli Art, the current multiple exhibition at the Herzliya Museum of Art, contain neither biting irony nor subtle humor; indeed, this is smugly stated in the catalogue's introductory pages. Sadly, what they do portray are unadulterated exercises in the making of techno-art, which develops quickly into small, ongoing displays of tedious, self-satisfied personal nostalgia and digitalized portraiture. The presentations, mostly by recent graduates of the Midrasha College of Art and of the Bezalel Academy, are being shown in concert with other shows in galleries around Tel Aviv. The entire event is running concurrently with the publication of the art magazine Hamidrasha: Auto/biography Project, Autumn 2005. Vivid introspection of one's physical or psychological self does not surface very often among the show's 14 participants; and when it does, the impact on the viewer's visual sensitivity or intelligence is barely significant. For example, the main hall contains four displays and two wall compendiums: In Yaari's Safari by Noa Yaari and Zvi Elhyani's Nehalim, that include static memorabilia, old photos, documents and maps; Sheffy Bleier's photographic diary of her family's feet and Olaf K hnemann's depictions of the past and present saga of his immediate family. These four ordinary works are supplemented by Some Things Changed, Some Remained the Same, a canny installation by Oreet AsheryEinat AmirDisgraceful Retreat under Pressure, in which she acts the parts of both personas, one male and one female. Collating edited dialogue from speeches made by Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon between 2000 and 2005, she is able to carry on a dialogue that assaults issues of gender, home, basic rights and human dignity, skipping easily between national and private states. For four minutes a plump Ariela Plotkin bumps and grinds as she strips to her birthday suit in Miracles - My 2005. She presents herself as a garage pin-up girl, acting out, with tongue in cheek, the slow-paced gyrations and sexy pouting associated with the genre. Talk about beating a dead horse. Roee Rosen is back with yet another installment of Justine Frank, his imaginary Belgian-Jewish artist and writer who has become something of a cult hero in Israeli art of the past several years. Rosen claims that Two Women and a Man, a video including a monologue and highly charged watercolors, is definitely the very, very last episode in the life and times of Frank. Sculptor Yitzhak Golombek's installation The Shnitzim (from Dr. Seuss's Sneetches) is, on the one hand, about discovering the insignificance and irrationality of everyday things and on the other scrutinizing the artistic potential inherent in these objects. In order to achieve his goal he has arranged on the floor baskets, trays and bags of subtle and supple objects - carpet dusters, potatoes, eggs, bars of soap, lighters, pencils, meringue kisses and more. So? Diary of a Dancer is a photojournalistic essay by New Yorker Elinor Carucci, whose score of colored prints document her performances as a belly dancer at ethnic parties. Other photographers, Eyal Gaziel and Itay Ziv, have both staged their compositions, the former with men, women and youngsters on the streets and alleys of Kiryat Tivon (his home town), the latter with friends and relatives reenacting familiar scenes one observes in a hospital ward. Nadav Weissmann's neighborhood installation deals with society's ecological dilemmas. White apartment buildings, in the early stages of being engulfed by creeping ivy, surround the local pitch-black pond, which is encircled by waving black grass. Parasitic bee hives adorn rooftops with pools of yellow muck, and three of Weissman's typical physiologically-challenged figures, dead or alive, are strewn around the gallery. In the museum's large hall, a three-dimensional landscape entitled Six Feet Under by Noga Elhasid and Halit Mandelblit, theoretically, as the catalogue has it, provides the physical ambiance for one to experience the act of walking into a painting. Actually, the sculptural installation doesn't provide that kind of experience at all. The work is merely an enormous, three-dimensional deconstructed landscape assembled from digitally printed walls and a score of unhealthy-looking hanging tree shapes overhung by a few Perspex cloud formations. The addition of papier m ch animals held aloft by floating balloons only adds confusion to a work already fraught with a perplexing presence. A shadowy predator with bird in mouth gliding along the painted walls every few seconds is the only element in an otherwise prosaic work that provides the viewer with something of significance (Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, 4 Habanim). All of the above until December 24. THE MONOTONY in Gidon Graetz's show of non-objective sculptures is derived from his incessant use of tangled, organic volumes, and the occasional use of intertwined geometric bars, coupled with a habitual dependence on two alternating metals, stainless steel and bronze. His precise reductive forms come from a visceral source rather than a planned mathematical or geometric one. Despite their conceptual sameness, and looking strangely like sculptures we have seen many times before, they are compact, firm and balanced compositions. There is nothing totemic or ritualistic inherent in Graetz's work, but it is merely created by applying an imaginative yet strict set of rules. His From Model to Monument is a display of maquettes (and a few larger pieces) destined in the artist's mind to be elevated to grand sculptures for urban and rural sites. Several have already made the leap. Born in Tel Aviv (1927), Graetz has been living on his Tuscan estate for more than 40 years. Exercising his technical knowledge and abilities to work in a variety of metals, Graetz established a foundry in Florence in the mid-1960s, and since then has been doing his own casting (Nelly Aman Gallery, 26 Gordon, Tel Aviv). Till November 29. PHOTOGRAPHS by the Turkish installation and video artist Servet Kocyigit project a good dose of irony, a smidgen of surrealism and a definite sense of humor. All his pictures are concerned with cultural codes and social mores. The most outrageous images are those of a broom made from a woman's wig gliding across a polished floor; a turtle bearing a cup of tea; and a porter transporting a lit chandelier in a wooden wagon. Despite the challenge of trying to comprehend each and every work, Kocyigit's photographs and a single object evoke a curiosity that surpasses the reason rooted in the metaphors (Givon Art Gallery, 35 Gordon, Tel Aviv). Till December 10.