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WHETHER IT’S Lichtenstein or Agam, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art will challenge your perceptions..(Photo by: Wikimedia Commons)
Surreal and powerful: Tel Aviv Museum of Art
One might be greeted by a large Lichtenstein and Agam creatively toying with traditional painting before finding the collections and permanent displays.
A wonderful structure, the spaceship-like vessel known as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art also holds further structures within its very belly: artworks.

One might be greeted by a large Lichtenstein and Agam creatively toying with traditional painting before finding the collections and permanent displays, where there is a fantastic room with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist narratives of art. It’s actually quite a surreal and powerful experience to see in actual paint and canvas those works regarded by the history of art as, well, forming the history of art. Shrouded by ornate frames, one wonders at the presence of these works and the fact that they would carry great wealth.

Then one returns to the paint and the shifts in perception that Impressionism and Post-Impressionism inspired, so that art begins to twist and reform its identity. Philosophically, one might say this is the precursor to stimulating conscious-alternating and thence reality-shifting consequences.

The permanent collection then continues this narrative tracing Fauvist, Cubist, Surrealist, abstract, constructionism and Abstract Expressionism as one moves rather goofy-eyed from one great master (or so the narrative goes) to another. Essentially, modern art – after centuries of the domination of perspective and realism, of history painting or myth or the biblical narrative – began to find the flatness of the picture plane once more and the abstract structural reality behind things, its atomic structure. This resulted in the manifestation of the brush mark, of formal awareness for its own sake, of raw emotion, and of new narratives other than the traditional one. Of course, with hindsight, the story that we tell is that modernism failed, no Utopia was reached and that we have entered a phase called post-modern.

Another room contains an exhibition titled “A decade of the Hain Shiff Prize for figurative-Realist art by guest curator Dr Doron Lurie.” So realism and figuration in painting is not dead after all. Particularly striking was Ofer Rotem’s work with graphic pencil – a keen eye and facility with the drawing implement. It’s difficult to fathom the patience required to render such images, preferring a more direct expression and metaphorical understanding of “reality.”

 Fatima Shana’s renderings of carpets are equally compelling in their obsessive observation and patterning. Yet like so many of these realist artists, one is taken in by the sense of likeness to what is called reality, or perhaps better stated, as empirical reality. Yet such is but the surface. Or is it the final manifestation of whatever brought it into being? Only as art usually goes, it remains motionless, only to take flight as culture.

In “Status quo: Structures of Negation,” curated by Deborah Pinto Fdeda, Ifat Finkelman, Oren Sagiv and Tania Coen-Uzzielli, charts the historical evolution of the maintenance of holy sites in Israel. It could fit equally well in a history museum, but the video piece and the manner of display renders it decidedly aesthetic and artistic. Only, in that order, does the exhibition simply document or is it necessarily caught in its own ideological web/order/narrative? The answer is not forthcoming, just as agreement cannot seem to come between the different (religious) powers that reside in Israel. Yet at least there seems to healthy respect for what are considered holy sites.

The sculptures, drawings and assemblages of Yitzhak Golombek, the 2017 recipient for the Rappaport Prize for an Established Israeli Artist were especially enjoyable. Curated by Anat Danon Sivan, the exhibit contains text at the entrance to the exhibition that “explains” it well as a kind of anti-heroic structure, of the banal and of “low” culture. In that stylistic mode, the artist is able to speak about life issues, such as the status of immigrants and refugees.

It felt like a short time at the museum, yet hours had passed and I did not see everything. If you have not already been here, get there soon. And if you already have, well, another meditation might be good. Indeed, it may even change some aspect of the way one sees, feels and thinks.
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