Women photographing women

Past the Tel Aviv port's stunning seaside promenade and outdoor fish restaurants, visitors can find a noteworthy exhibition.

Edith 298.88 (photo credit: Amit Berlowitz)
Edith 298.88
(photo credit: Amit Berlowitz)
Past the Tel Aviv port's stunning seaside promenade and outdoor fish restaurants, visitors can find a noteworthy exhibition tucked into the Beit Banamal. "Changing Situations," an assemblage of recent photographs of women shot by women, occupies the airy foyer set between the building's alluring boutiques and beauty salons. The show smoothly surfs the boundary between decoration and "real" art, and is likely to please Ladies Who Lunch as well as young artists. The current series of exhibitions in Beit Banamal was initiated by one of the clothing shops there, Comme il Faut. The store owner realized the high-ceilinged, white-walled space is a natural venue for contemporary art, and as a result decided to invite an outside curator to install a new exhibition there every two months. Perhaps as a reflection of the regular clientele, Beit Banamal's shows are usually related to femininity and women's issues. Curated by Hadas Maor, "Changing Situations" deals with female identity and presents independent women immersed in their own worlds. While the setting is a commercial environment, the photographs are not conventional images of female beauty. In the best works, the women pictured are strikingly real, possessed of individual personalities. Tali Amiti Tabib's series to the right of the entrance, for example, presents elderly women wearing bathing caps in a swimming pool. The figures are playful but wrinkled, and appear to savor their slow, graceful movements through the water. Tabib took advantage of the lane dividers painted on the bottom of the pool to create a dynamic composition communicating the enduring humanity and self-sufficiency of these seniors. Visually, the compositions work to draw the viewers' eye deeper into the exhibition. Here the visitor discovers four photographs of a young woman alone in a stark white modern apartment. The artist, Tali Ben Basat, caught her well-dressed and groomed but barefoot model in poses emphasizing the clean geometry of the interior, as well as the figure's solitary existence. In one shot, she stretches her arms overhead in a perfect isosceles triangle but does not attempt to open the austere kitchen cabinets. In another, she sits stiffly upright on the edge of the coffee table, calling attention to the square white leather furniture behind her. The bright, even light and controlled palette feel sophisticated yet sterile - even a bit creepy. For some viewers, Ben Basat's series might be a comment on the conventional, wealthy Tel Aviv esthetic; perhaps the woman in the photographs is trapped under its weight, despite its light reputation. The strongest and most psychologically penetrating works in the exhibit are portraits by Amit Berlowitz. This Israeli photographer lived in Paris for three years and appears to have befriended some of the most interesting-looking women in the city. In terms of intimacy, Berlowitz's works are more intense than Ben Basat's, and diametrically opposed to studio shots of blank-eyed fashion models. Instead, this photographer got to know her subjects, was invited up to their apartments, and documented them as they were - often in their underpants. These French women let their guard down and stare frankly, almost lovingly, into the eyes of a good friend: Berlowitz. It's clear that these are elegant yet edgy women, but here they are captured without their trappings, in the throes of breakups or, as one weary woman in paillettes appears, on the morning after a ball. "Changing Situations" (Matzavim Mishtanim) will be open through the end of July, every day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., inside "Beit Banamal" at the Tel Aviv Port, Hangar 26. For more information, call (03) 681-8820.