A state of soulful introspection

Artist Michail Grobman was a member of the 2nd Avant-Garde movement in the Soviet Union during the 1960s.

grobman art 88 224 (photo credit: )
grobman art 88 224
(photo credit: )
I have been tracking Liliane Klapisch's (b. France, 1933) exhibitions of paintings, and the occasional one of drawings, for more than 20 years. And with each new show something innovative appeared, either in the manner with which she applied her paints, modified her drawing style or invented a novel approach to images lodged in a variety of subjective and figurative compositions. Klapisch's current exhibition, entitled Il Peint, contains a score of paintings on canvas and cardboard completed in Paris from 2004 to 2007 that project a decided difference from the recent past. Gone are the azure blue skies and the willowy cypress trees that captivated her senses while looking outward from her apartment window in Jerusalem and which she rendered in a direct, often brutish, manner while simultaneously imbuing them with a form of poetic grace. This optimistic attitude has been internalized and replaced with subjects whose pictorial qualities are noticeably restrained and somewhat stoical. Standing in a closed room lacking the imposing scale and proportions she is accustomed to, Klapisch, nevertheless, seems to be tolerant of her surroundings. She observes the confined space from every possible angle as she turns round and round, isolating and recording every detail. Her translation of the sparse physical ambiance into paint is based on a dynamic use of assorted rectangles closing in on one another and interrupted by scarred and ruptured lines. The cycle of Klapisch's new works is less adventurous and almost colorless. The spontaneity and the brusqueness of her brushwork have remained constant, but her limited palette of white, a range of sepia, burnt umber and an occasional mottled blue gray fearlessly expresses a state of soulful introspection. In no way do they reflect previous interior-exterior views of chaotic courtyards on the one side and a disorderly studio on the other, the former bathed in an atmospheric light that advanced the crystalline blues, viridians and ochres of the Middle East. Klapisch has organized her compositions around a simple vase of wilting flowers entrenched at the very base of the canvas, a set of flat planes describing a closed cupboard, shuttered windows and, in a distinctive symbolic gesture, a front door viewed from inside that has been latched and bolted by several locks. For whatever reasons, these are the emblems of a painter who not only has closed herself off but also sees the world somewhat differently today than she did several years ago. Even her paintings of laborers working on a construction site are like puppets enacting out a theatrical episode. They are faceless and formless. Anonymous shapes devoid of personality and contained within grids of 90 degrees mirroring Klapisch's moodiness and obvious deliberations about neutrality and confinement. (Bineth Gallery, Frishman 15, Tel Aviv). Till December 14. PAINTINGS, DRAWINGS, collages and assemblages, Last Skies, are filled with a magical range of signs, symbols, words and quotations by the Israeli-Russian artist, poet and philosopher Michail Grobman and date back more than 40 years. Born in Moscow in 1939, Grobman was an active member of the Second Avant-Garde movement in the Soviet Union during the 1960s before immigrating to Israel in 1971. In 1975, together with Avraham Ofek and Shmuel Ackerman, he founded the Leviathan Group, a loosely knit group of mostly Russian artists that, according to Gideon Ofrat, sought to make their works a fusion of popular art and faith by means of primitive elements. Leviathan combined environmental happenings in the desert blending mythological animals with Jewish mysticism and local culture. Essentially Grobman has never retracted the conceptual backbone of Leviathan, although that group disbanded after a few active years but its influence on the participants was enormous. A thoroughly readable catalog essay by the exhibition's curator, Marc Scheps, follows Grobman's artistic career from his occult, often scary anthropomorphic pictures of vultures and flying fish of the '60s through to his one of his last works, Black Square of 2007, painted on a wooden panel the size of a double bed and dedicated to his most influential teacher, Kazimir Malevich, whose Black Square was first exhibited in Petrograd in 1915, and became an indispensable icon of 20th century modernism. Grobman's exhibition provides the viewer with an excellent summary of his mystifying art, its mixed range of media and its graphic power. Suggested viewing. (Loushy and Peter Art and Projects, Rothschild 19, Tel Aviv). Till December 21. FROM THE exhibition's title. XXS (Extra, Extra Small) I expected to review a range of miniature objects, installations, paintings and works on paper. Not so. Although the works by 14 international and Israeli artists could not be considered large they certainly weren't XXS. Among the various media, two works of interest projected similar subjects: suburban genre. A miniaturized model of a ranch house by Tracey Snelling, labeled Flag House in Albuquerque, has its entire façade painted with the American flag and a bald eagle, the latter the national symbol of the United States. The derelict-looking appearance of the domestic structure connotes that it belongs to the gun-slinging portion of the population that rides huge Harley Davidson bikes and watches theatrical wrestling incessantly, as seen and heard through the window of the model. Tim Gardner, a Canadian painter, has chosen the most opposite venue possible, a pristine tree-lined street of a suburban village, and described it in detail with a skillfully applied wet-on-wet watercolor technique. His technique is near flawless and his local color is brushed with broad single strokes to maintain the spontaneity that the medium requires for a rich and fluid surface. There is little difference in technique between the greenish landscape and the snow-covered peaks in the background. Other works of relative interest are a portfolio of small photographs shot with a cellular telephone by Chaim Lusky and paintings by Andreas Lach (1817-1882) found in Greta Garbo's Estate influenced works by Itzik Livneh. (Sommer Contemporary Art, Rothschild 13, Tel Aviv). Till December 14. ISRAEL HADANY'S last exhibition was a comprehensive showing of figurative sculptures assembled from stacked and glued layers of plywood at the Open Museum in the Tefen Industrial Park, 2003. In his current display Hadany has retained his fascinating technique but has eradicated the figure, except for Voyage, a shrouded male reclining on an iron bed, and replaced them with sacred edifices, small and compact enough to be placed on pedestals. Each one of the sculptures - Cathedral, Mausoleum, Tashkent, Spiral and Convent - is imbued with architectonic elements, reductive and stylized as they might be, that symbolize their spiritual affiliation. Except for Convent, which is a conceptual piece assembled from a square bed of painted sand, plywood and stainless steel containing at its center axis a depression housing a ribbed structure, all the rest are pleasant to look at but lack the emotional character of his previous works. I am also critical of the manner in which his sculptures are exhibited. Each piece stands alone in a separate room, isolated from its partners. Most probably, if assembled in one space and properly lit the visual impact of the of the whole would be much greater than the sum of its parts. His exhibition associate is Irith Bloch, a painter born in France (1938) and trained in Belgium. She shows several panels of small-format works that are delicate studies of earth, flora and fauna and stone and dust, arranged side by side. There seems to be an attempt to show, through reductive abstraction the ideals of natural growth and disintegrations, life and death and something exposed and concealed. (Golconda Gallery, Rothschild 27, Tel Aviv). Till December 12.