Triple treat

Three new exhibitions with different points of view provide the viewer with three superb visual experiences.

rantzer art 88 298 (photo credit: Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv)
rantzer art 88 298
(photo credit: Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv)
Three new exhibitions with different points of view provide the viewer with three superb visual experiences. At the Gordon Gallery, the main hall is devoted to The Five Continents, sculptural tableaux by neo-Dadaist Philip Rantzer, an artist who has always excelled in mixing and matching fantasy images while using unique materials, textures and a battery of found objects. Describing Rantzer's newfound joy in silicone and resin figures can only provide the reader with an approximation of the insight and creative grit that has gone into the putting together of his exceptional pieces. The central element in each work is a perfectly modeled figure that emulates those by the remarkable Australian sculptor Ron Mueck, whose fastidiously detailed Dead Dad (from the Saatchi Collection, London, 1997) was a true show-stopper. Rantzer's figures are cast by someone else according to exact specifications. He then clothes them with a variety of accessories and places them in ambiguous situations. Rantzer's work traditionally glides along the boundaries of surrealism and the dark side of Dada, with an occasional foray into the terrain of arte povera. If anything, he never resorts to a visual language that is conventional and predictable. These curious pieces are assembled without concern for identifiable reality. They are a series of cryptic observations that contain the seeds of understanding but must be nurtured and deciphered, if lucid answers are available, by each and every viewer. Using inverted proportions, America sets a bemused street urchin or recently landed young immigrant sporting a facial rucksack with sprouting ram's horns, on top of a multiple-floor building held together with plastic wrapping tape. The addition of a slender ladder and a furry, blood-stained scarf transforms a picture of dreaming tranquility into a scene of menacing apprehension. And each work is festooned with a sequence of questions: why is the house on wheels, what is his hope for the future, what is written about the bench, etc. The miniaturized figures and their circumstances in Africa, Australia, Europe and Asia are as enigmatic as his America, yet there is a bizarre streak of credibility that weaves in and out of each work. A destitute supine westerner in Asia waiting for death on a canvas mattress is nonetheless heartened by a wrap of primary colored laces. Africa is a confrontation between a ruffled colonial gentleman in a black suit, whose facial expression promotes unmitigated terror, and an enormous black ogre without hands kneeling on a decorative tortoise shell. Here, the mythic conflict is a bit more comprehensible, as the figures are adopted from a historical perspective but the details, namely a red plastic arc separating the two forms, maintain a mysterious bent. Tackling Europe's blood-soaked reclining man and Australia's flying huntsman requires from the visitor the same candid approach and freedom of thought as called for by the other three, for they are, down to the last detail, as refreshingly ambiguous and skillfully assembled. THE JERUSALEM Studio School has altered the face of figurative painting in Israel. Other art institutions in the country, notably the Bezalel Academy and the Midrasha College of Art at Beit Berl, have detailed their curriculum to conform to the trendy requirements of contemporary digital and video art. But the student body of the JSS, trained in conventional techniques of drawing and painting, has taken the institution from meager beginnings to an emerging, recognizable school of painting. Michal Sheizaf, a graduate of the JSS, has been trained to observe her subjects with the objective of translating the views into identifiable, if not overly realistic icons. Painted on small format masonite or wood, there is nothing matter-of-fact about her briskly-painted landscapes. These refined, plein air sketches of familiar environments combine small dwellings, trees and foliage in compact compositions. Using both brush and palette knife, Sheizaf defines architectural planes and natural volumes with artistic deftness. Because Sheizaf's views are limited to intimate daytime rural vignettes - with the exception of several exceptional compositions of cloudy skies - she resorts to a narrow range of colors. Calamine pinks, pale Naples yellow and a pastel toned umber are used frequently to offset the light and shade of the deep viridian forests, swaying cypress and the ever-present red-tiled roofs. Two paintings describing the trunks of felled trees in the midst of a dense thicket, with calligraphic patches of grass lining the frontal plane, are particularly worthy of note. There is nothing atmospheric about these paintings, nor are there overt expressionist tendencies. They are composed of solid patches of pigment that tell a short story about an intimate neighborhood without the inclusion of its inhabitants. Sheizaf should seek other climes to expand her painterly horizons, confronting a variety of light sources, alternate vegetation and the architectural diversity of other countries. EVERY TIME new works by Yaakov Dorchin burst off the walls or settle on a gallery floor I become fascinated once more by his inventiveness and ability to persistently alter the hardness of steel into supple shapes and forms, as if the substance was sheaves of cardboard. Dorchin's recent non-objective reliefs in rusted iron possess an imposing monumentality, despite their relative small scale. They also project a pronounced masculinity and charisma. His capacity to compose sculptures that look as if they were somehow preconceived and brought into this world untouched is remarkable. A technique of welding together twisted, bent and folded rusted steel plates, with the occasional addition of a rediscovered tool or discarded mechanical object, has not been altered by Dorchin over the years. But the outcome of his method always leads to surprisingly different exercises in the art of composition. (All three exhibitions at Gordon Gallery, 95 Ben Yehuda, Tel Aviv.) Till January 4. HAVING UNWRAPPED and flattened a score of painted canvas bundles, tents and spiritually endowed garments from her last one-person exhibition at the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, Dina Recanati has now utilized the painted fabric to create a series of standing sculptures, reliefs and a single installation comprised of nine roped and tied, ceiling-high, rectangular columns. The fashioning of soft sculptures from painted and soaked canvas is nothing new, but in the hands of Recanati it takes on a different look, simply because we know their source and that they have been created as a continuation of a search for her ultimate aesthetic statement. Recanati has created an exciting series of reliefs on a single T-shaped armature entitled Samurai. Each of the seven pieces resonates with a combined impression of the ancient warrior's pleated armor and draped vestments. In addition to the layer upon layer of canvas, they exude a collective feeling for martial arts bravado and Japanese elegance, especially in her color choices of electric blues, pale apple green and black. Nineteen small works in metallic paint on aluminum plates are filled with expressive abstract images of fire, brimstone and geological explosions, in which a turbulent range of burnt orange, scarlet and cool, silvery blue-grey matter never ceases to find a pivotal resting place on the picture plane. Compared with her previous exhibitions, this one is a more distilled and condensed experience. (Alon Segev Gallery, 23 Shaul Hamelech, Tel Aviv.) Till January 6.