Vive la diff?rence

Young Israeli Art, Recipients of the Legacy Heritage Fund Prize is an exhibition that spans and scans groups of painting, sculpture, and more.

shai azoulay 88 224 (photo credit: Helena Rubinstein Pavillion of Contemporary Art)
shai azoulay 88 224
(photo credit: Helena Rubinstein Pavillion of Contemporary Art)
If diversification in the fine arts is what you are searching for, a visit to the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art will undeniably satisfy your quest. Young Israeli Art, Recipients of the Legacy Heritage Fund Prize is an exhibition that spans and scans groups of painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation art, by 10 artists, all of whom reside here and are under 40. Immaculately produced from MDF and sprayed with several coats of slick industrial car paint, the handful of sculptures by Reuven Israel (b. Jerusalem, 1978) are compelling works that meld aesthetics, media and technique into fascinating objects. Each floor-standing unit, singular yet indisputably part of an expanded family of forms that evoke familiar objects from an architectural arch (P.D.T. [Please Don't Touch]) to an enormous ersatz radio (G.G. [Good God]), projects visual buoyancy despite its solid construction and is defined by an embedded sardonic humor. Sparked by her familiarity with the haredi communities of Mea She'arim and Bnei Brak, Hila Karabelnikov (b. Tel Aviv, 1981) probes their daily lives to create bustling figurative narratives zooming in on crowded markets and street festivals using a rather unorthodox medium: bits and pieces of cut colored masking tape applied to lopsided looking fields of canvas. And when coupled with a spectrum of comparable tints and stiff drawing, the pictures display a decidedly staccatoish, naïve appearance. Erez Israeli (b. Beersheba, 1974) displays a variety of expressive talents in both sculpture and video art. The former, entitled Terrorist, is a life-size epoxy cast of a hooded nude male standing in a classical pose attended by several stuffed pigeons perched on head, shoulders and hands. The man's physical presence and his patrician gesture are indicative of a commemorative statue in a public square, yet he has been dispatched by others to kill and cause havoc. And there lies the dichotomy. Who and why is he here? What are his attributes? Is he really a terrorist attracting doves of peace or an actor from a porno film? Is the work figurative sculpture or political drama? Whatever the answers it is a clever installation that raises more questions than provides answers. Israeli's video, Love Song, is a tender, twin screen film describing, on one, a male figure bathing the limp body of his partner, undoubtedly in the throes of a terminal illness, and on the second a time exposure of a bright red rose whose petals open and close to the musical strains of an affectionate ballad. From Jacques-Louis David's Death of Marat to W. Eugene Smith's Minimata photographs, the bathtub has been used as a metaphor for compassion and concern, and Israeli, with music and a roundel editing technique, has pushed the subject to its maximum effect. Late Bloomer, an extravagant installation by Lihi Chen (b. Ramat Gan, 1977), incorporates a small wooden hut sheltering a blossoming almond tree. First seen at the Haifa Museum of Art two years ago, this peculiar object lesson is as much an intellectual exercise as it is a work of art. As one peeps through the open window to no surprises a search for renewal seems to be the obvious parallel while other concepts like role reversals (interior-exterior), internment and escape come to the surface. Two painters, Khen Shish (b. Safed, 1970) and Shai Azoulay (b. Kiryat Shmona, 1971), both display a penchant for the grotesque and the bizarre, the former via a series of corrupted portraits and unsympathetic, expressively mannered, figurative compositions brushed in a most cruel fashion and the latter via a handful of naively rendered models acting out ritualistic poses in enclosed spaces and exterior fields that are difficult to evaluate: Are they intentionally drawn as a by-product of a painterly rationale and stylistic game playing or because Azoulay has no choice, or ability, to do otherwise because he lacks a professional grasp of anatomy, proportion and scale? Of the photographers in the exhibition Shay Ignatz's (b. Ashdod, 1969) cache of prints covers the classic stock of portraits, still life and landscapes, all of which assume a critical viewpoint of each subject especially the penetrating, introspective, portraits of women. Anna Yam (b. Russia, 1980) photographs people and places here and in Russia in a disconnected manner; all carefully composed and cleverly cropped to elicit the maximum response of wonderment from a viewer's confrontation with the imagery. One would like to see a naturalistic figure painting by Maya Gold (b. Jerusalem, 1978) in full flower, not as she has offered in this exhibition. Like a fly resting on the nose of a mythic actor in a Peter Paul Rubens panoramic canvas, Gold's miniature figure skips among the light fields and dark shadows of a monumental canvas. Matan Daube (b. Ramat Gan, 1979) is an artist who challenges his audience's intellect. Described by Tamar Getter as a neo-Conceptualist, Daube's video of an aged woman's soliloquy entitled Beethoven and his power point presentation on art, its philosophy and its marketing, both confront the public's ability to make sense out of it all. (Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art, Rehov Tarsat 6, Tel Aviv). WITH A burst of Pre-Raphaelite energy, Yigal Ozeri has created a number of paintings that are close facsimiles of the techniques and pictorial mannerisms advanced by that 19th-century Victorian movement. Entitled Genesis, Ozeri poses his model, Priscilla, lying clothed in a pool of water deep in a primeval forest or peering curiously at the viewer through a tangle of thick vine and bramble. The position Ozeri has chosen for the former, a neo-erotic pose replete with an ecstatic facial expressions, half closed eyelids, droplets sliding down her cheeks and the spreading gesture of her hands, is undeniably a duplicate of the image John Everett Millais chose for Ophelia (1851-2), his Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece hanging in the Tate Gallery, London. Moving past the figurative replica, even Ozeri's choice of fabric can be equated with the return to medieval design by William Morris, another Victorian favorite. Although the show's accompanying essay deals with the broad concepts of women's sexuality, paradise and female virginity, it is really about a theatrical reenactment of premeditated isolation and an enticement into one man's ersatz Garden of Eden. There is no spontaneity or obvious accident in Ozeri's pictures. Akin to his pigeons and courtyards shown at the Tel Aviv Museum in 2005, they have been planned, staged, photographed, digitized and transferred technically, every small detail, local color and texture, by Ozeri's team to paper and mounted on board. There was a time when Ozeri produced work that relied on his original thoughts and artistic temperament. He melded novel techniques with non-conventional media and surprising imagery, much of it from the well of art history. Unfortunately, his range of expression of recent years, remarkably slick and excessively charted, doesn't project the inventiveness that launched his career 20 years ago. (Alon Segev Gallery, 23 King Saul Blvd., Tel Aviv). Till March 7. AN IMPRESSIVE multifaceted video installation, Cloud 9, by Lee Yanor traces flora and fauna on nine screens, each set of images dissolving into the next. Coming from the world of dance to video art Yanor has commendably maintained a rhythmic scenario of defined movements in either natural or studio settings as she cuts and crosscuts the moving pictures. There is of course Yanor's personal association with the primary colored images of blinding red anemones, shifting fields of yellow wheat and waves of blue water extending beyond the screen's edges as raindrops hit the surface and a polar bear dives under the surface. These experiments in color are counterpointed by a film depicting a flock of black and white sheep, crisscrossing the surfaces and isolated frames of human feet in precise, ethnically inspired, Indonesian steps. (The Heder Contemporary Art, Rehov Gottlieb 11, Tel Aviv). Till March 22.