Shooting reality and its guises

Staging a contemporary art exhibit inside the offices of an ad agency sems particularly fitting to these days of media bombardment.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
These days, the media bombard us with images, so it's somewhat fitting to stage a contemporary art exhibit inside the offices of the Meyuhas Creative Production ad agency, one of the most influential sources of visual culture. The exhibit comments on and even uses the language of advertising, yet Reality highlights the way young artists relate to the culture of consumerism and the effect it has on their work. The idea was provoked, in part, by the Israeli obsession with reality television - a phenomenon that curator Maayan Shelef considers the ultimate exhibitionism. The show also deals with the depiction of sex and violence and the illusion or irony of beauty, and questions whether the viewer has free choice to resist being seduced. While these seem like heavy ideas, the art works are actually quite fun, perhaps since fun is often a characteristic of successful advertising. Walking down the hallway toward the central offices, one can see how the artists use the tricks of advertising to grab viewers' attention. For example, Tal Slutzker's Untitled painting features a menacing bad guy pointing a gun directly at the viewer. The work is rendered in high-contrast black and white and features dramatic shadows, as well as spots of color that flicker on the canvas and tickle the eye. It was a strong image when the artist found it on the Internet, and became even stronger when painted with a trained hand. The concept shows up again in a very different work, Netta Zohar's Untitled photograph of a man in a wheelchair in the middle of a muddy agricultural field, who stretches his pistol-bearing arm out toward the viewer. Here, we see a man one might assume to be harmless, but he is actually a deadly villain. But the most entertaining "shooting" work, Itai Mautner and Alona Rodeh's Rogatka, turns the roles around and lets the viewer shoot gumballs with a slingshot, aiming for beer bottles perched atop a giant menora in the vacant lot next door. It's thrilling to watch participants give it a go, and amusing to see people realize the game is harder than it looks. Beyond violence, there are also several memorable works dealing with female beauty - in traditional and non-traditional guises. Before and After by Sharon B.H. is a series of headshot pairs, one of a lovely woman and the other of the same woman without hair or makeup. Looking back and forth between the photos, the women seem like totally different people, even though the viewer knows it's just an illusion. Reality is open at the Meyuhas Creative Production offices at Rehov Ben-Avigdor 20 in Tel Aviv, on Fridays from noon until 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., through May 12. For more information, call (03) 561-4525.