Mundane becomes out of the ordinary at Jerusalem Artist's House

The most expansive exhibition at the Jerusalem Artists’ House at present takes in several dozen monochromic works by Talia Israeli.

ODED ZAIDEL 'US' 2020 (photo credit: MICHAEL AMAR)
(photo credit: MICHAEL AMAR)
The mundane is well represented in the current spread at the Jerusalem Artists’ House. That is certainly the case with Lital Mor’s “Under the Blazing Sun” show on the ground floor, curated by Mark Yashaev. We are told the title alludes to the same sun that made Meursault, a diffident French Algerian who serves as the protagonist of Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, commit a murder. “I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I’d been happy,” he says after pulling the trigger.
Whether the same can be said of Mor’s reading of the mundane or, even, banal, is up for grabs. The artist says the solar element in the project also references a quotidian given, basically that, in this part of the world, the sun tends to shine brightly. “The Israeli sun represents a return to the warm, sometimes impossible, everyday reality. The images in the exhibition are ‘tired,’ ‘indifferent’ images of that reality,” she posits.
Indeed, there is definitively nothing remarkable about the four items that make up “Under the Blazing Sun.” There is a possibly prescient video work with the artist probing the interior of one of her nostrils until she sneezes. As the video was made a couple of years ago, no one could accuse Mor of aping the coronavirus test. A large photograph of four young women in underwear, in various poses of blatant indifference does nothing to set the pulse racing either. But that seems to the point.
At least Oded Zaidel appears to have a modicum of a sense of humor. His “Us” exhibition, curated by Ilan Wizgan, has the seasoned Jerusalemite artist break away from his normal thematic patch – of unpeopled undistinguished buildings – to feature people, more people and even more people.
Zaidel’s subjects are family, friends and acquaintances and, hence, his gentle treatment of those close to him. There are three selfie-sourced paintings in there – a couple of himself, his wife artist Lena Zaidel and their daughter, and one with Mrs. Zaidel taking a photo of herself, hubby and three friends at an exhibition opening.
Zaidel’s general preference for architecture comes across in the linear elements in his acrylic works, and there is a clear structural core to them. His choice of backdrops for the portraits also makes for intriguing and varied viewing, ranging from the very busy – such as his portrayal of an artist friend with some of the latter’s works behind him – to the uniformly colored. Zaidel cites the likes of Israeli painter Ori Reisman, whose landscapes often featured strikingly shaded backgrounds, and who made a habit of denoting facial details sparingly, as a source of inspiration. 17th century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez also comes in for a mention and, particularly his masterpiece Las Meninas. It is not hard to see why. Velázquez’s scene, like Zaidel’s paintings sourced from a photographed image, offers the viewer the vantage point of the creator and of the subjects.
The current social distancing-isolation travails also leave their imprint on Zaidel’s current crop. “My subjects smile,” he says, “in contrast with the current mood. Anyway, I am a humanist.”
The most expansive exhibition at the Jerusalem Artists’ House at present takes in several dozen monochromic works by Talia Israeli. Under the guiding curatorial hand of Yael Katz Ben Shalom, Israeli’s paintings in One of the Mountains delve into iconographic realms of Renaissance frescoes, and aim to “secularize” the prevalent Christian motifs of the time.
One case in point is a painting of Mont Ventoux, the 1909 meter high peak of which – by the by - happens to serve as one of the most grueling stages of the Tour de France. “In Renaissance painting we always look upwards to something heavenly something divine,” says Jerusalem Artists’ House director Ruth Zadka. “Here it is just a mountain. Talia turns the celestial into nature.”
Indeed, that is not a new notion. Italian Renaissance scholar Francesco Petrarca, a poet and humanist, almost six and a half centuries ago viewed landscapes as just that, devoid of any godly content.
There is plenty of visual calisthenics to Israeli’s work as she deftly balances a zoom in-zoom out approach – on visual, conceptual, reality, mythical and personal levels.
But, if it is emotive fireworks you are looking for, your best bet would be the ceramic-based showing by Magdalena Hefetz, also curated by Ilan Wizgan. Her section takes in just a couple of works, that comprise thousands of components – 2002 to be precise. “One Thousand and One Cups” is displayed in a long tabletop motley arrangement. Hefetz, who headed the Israel Ceramic Artists’ Association for seven years, and is considered a trailblazing leader in her field, created a vast assortment of pottery drinking vessels, each with its very own shape and number. The numeral, says Zadka, signifies the uniqueness of each mug, but also darkly references the Holocaust, and the serial numbers tattooed on the inmates of Auschwitz.
The other Hefetz exhibit takes in an identical number of handled pottery fragments which have a sense of explosive instability and high dense energy. That surely ensues directly from the maverick creator herself. There is also a short documentary video screened in her area which sheds much light on the woman and the artist.
The exhibitions are due to run through to November 7, 2020.
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