Thursday, September 24, 2015

Artist Statement for A Fine Line Exhibit in the Jerusalem Biennale 2015

Street Wise, digital prints 2012 ©2015 by Heddy Abramowitz

  חוכמת רחוב 

Street photography, I feel, gives a true-to-the-moment picture of the preoccupations of its residents. Graffiti, all the more so – we absorb these markings as the backdrop of city life.
The eye of a photographer must select a focus, blocking out all else. A photographer’s role is, like that of a landscape painter – both must select what goes into the frame or format. The amount of information hurtling towards a street photographer can be overwhelming. What interests me? The tall buildings and the city skyline? Or this one piece of Hebrew writing on a neglected city wall?

For me, a transplanted American, seeing Hebrew graffiti is something of a wonder. My preconceptions of Jerusalem were of rolling pastoral hills and not what I really found when I arrived, a city with buildings from yesteryear trying to primp themselves to keep up with the times with a bit of rouge and too bright lipstick. I try and break some of the conventions of Jerusalem as I seek subject matter reflecting the working city of today with an undercurrent of its deep history.

These quickly spray-painted images from templates or scrawled by hand, speak to the most central understanding of civil interaction between people – Derech Eretz Kadma l’Torah. Regardless of the issue of the day, the unknown writer declares that common human decency, derech eretz, precedes Torah. 

This message was spray-painted up and down Jaffa Road from the Davidka Square to Machaneh Yehuda in 2012. As in ancient times, this is a main commercial artery of Jerusalem. The writer brought this message from rabbinic teachings straight into the heart of daily life. 

As with much of what is directly in front of us, this statement could easily be overlooked, yet is at the essence of our social contract. Before getting into the fine-tuning of climbing the spiritual ladder through Torah learning, first we need to be good people one to the other. Or, as I heard growing up, sei a mensch, be a human being. Without that, there is no common starting point.

Here I have contrasted this message with different contexts, each further expands it. Seeing it against a photograph of a billboard commemorating the founders of a school in downtown Jerusalem from a hundred years ago, both school and the generations long gone, helps illustrate its timelessness. 

In a second juxtaposition, the young girl walking along past portraits of people from all walks of life – she neither notices them nor they her. We look directly into their eyes, and again ask, what binds us one to another but human decency?

The next pair of photographs, show the same slogan enlarged on a wall, with the added line – "If there is no Torah, there can be no derech eretz (human decency)." Is this a philosophical question of the chicken or the egg variety? One senses that this message includes a veiled warning, don’t encroach on priorities. The graffiti style mimics a cartoon face but the messages, seemingly one in reaction to the other, are serious.

The dynamic life of the slogan continues in the fourth photograph, where the most recent addition to the wall is done in fire engine red: "Warning: Live Fire Zone." This phrase coming from the military is placed in the middle of the wall conversation. It adds a sense of urgency, it adds a layer of military lingo to rabbinic phrases, it adds the blatant admonition that this is shaky and unstable ground, and could be explosive.

It is in these small, private declarations that an individual can reach out to a stranger and perhaps strike a chord, for the briefest of moments, that may garner a reaction; perhaps causing a little jiggle in their outlook.  Like flowers with a short life, graffiti blossoms on unobtrusive walls quickly and, in the dynamics of city life, fades, gets painted, or covered by a poster. I record these markings to document the social pulse of earthly Jerusalem.

A Fine Line 
curated by Dr. Susan N. Fraiman
45 Emek Refaim St. 
Achim Hasid Complex
Sept 26 - Nov 5

I am exhibiting in another exhibit at the same venue.
A Sense of  Space, A Sense of Place
Curated by Mallory Serebrin
web page here and  (more to come after the opening).
To hear an interview and a statement on the Crossroads works see here.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Jerusalem Biennale 2015 Invitation

The Jerusalem Biennale 2015 is right around the corner. This is the second time that Jerusalem will be the host city for Contemporary Jewish Art with exhibits running in venues in central Jerusalem from September 24 - November 5.

I am very excited to be participating in two of the exhibitions, A Fine Line, curated by Dr. Susan Fraiman, and A Sense of Space/A Sense of Place curated by Mallory Serebrin.

Both exhibitions will be opening on Saturday night, September 26th at 8:30 pm. The exhibits will be at the Achim Hasid Complex at 47 Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem's beautiful German Colony.

I very much hope to see you there.

And best wishes to all for a very joyous, happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Yerushalmi Café Culture

Bar Stools with Pedals, Café Agronsky © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz

It’s hot, it’s August. Taking it easy.

A delight of warm weather is popping into places otherwise seen from the window of a vehicle. We are less rushed, the days are longer, serendipity takes over.

So it was recently when I stuck my head into a coffee shop named Agronsky after the owner Sonia Agronsky and fortuitously located on — wait for it — Agron Street. An immigrant from Moscow, Sonia started this place three years ago — its neighbors include the US Consulate for Commercial Affairs, a monastery, a bicycle repair shop, and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Lacking an exterior sign, this odd hidden gem is in plain view. Does it get any better?

In style, this is as low key as its neighbor a few steps east, the Waldorf, is HIGH. Where the Waldorf plays to the pretentious, Agronsky plays to the casual. Where the Waldorf caters to the highest standards of religious pedigrees, Agronsky posts a wall-size cartoon answering any kashrut questions with: we observe tradition. ‘Nuff said.

I don’t usually engage in reporting on food establishments, there are blogs aplenty that do. No, this is about art.

Immediately, I was charmed. The high bar stools have foot rests that are bicycle pedals, in a nod to its  closest neighbor, the repair shop that goes back at least 4 decades.

Clock Café Agronsky © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz

The wall clock ticks the day away in a mélange of re-purposed objects that are design museum worthy.

Muffin Cakes, Café Agronsky © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz

The iced coffee was fine and made by Sonia on the spot. I perused the muffin-type cakes made in-house. But that was the end of my menu exploration. The high-ceilinged coffee shop has a bar for indoor seating and a couple of small tables in and outside.

With a view of Independence Park and the newly-opened franchise coffee shop done in the latest of restaurant fashions, this is an off-the-beaten-track find smack in the middle of the beaten track. Its across-the-street competitor will surely soon be packed, but if I were a visitor to Jerusalem (or the local that I am) I would turn my back on the latest version of fungible establishments on Agron and in the close-by Mamilla Mall and choose instead Agronsky for its unique vibe.

Mural detail by Daniella Schnitzer, Café Agronsky © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz

The entire left wall of the café is dedicated to the unfolding of a whimsical collage of hand-drawn illustrations by artist Daniella Schnitzer. This work-in-progress is meant to be a mural of Jerusalem, with an eye to the mundane and the miraculous. Her keen observations zero in on many different aspects of daily life in Jerusalem and visitors to the café will enjoy watching it grow.

Coffee, a quiet corner, and a philosophical-humorous art work in progress. A bit like having a front row seat for a mini-Sistine Chapel. Without the neck strain.


Opening hours of Agronsky:
sunday to thursday: 07:30 am - 23:00 pm
friday: 07:30 am untill 1h before Shabbat
saturday: motzei Shabbat

This post was originally published on the Times of Israel:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Personal Break

Please have a bit of patience for me while I am taking a break from blogging.  We have had a loss in the family and it may take me awhile to get back on track.

Thank you for your understanding.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Interview on TLV1 Radio for Cross Point Exhibition

Shadow Couple 20 x 30 cm oil on linen 2006 © by Heddy Abramowitz

Because we are in election season, the idea of a time being a crossing-point is ever more significant.  Cross Point is my current solo exhibit now being shown at the Artists' House in Tel Aviv.

The exhibit includes selected drawings and paintings spanning a 19-year period during which I explored the presence of rhythm in my work, curated by artist Shimon Pinto.

I think for myself, it was satisfying to see the long development over time come together to create a body of work, one that was interrupted many times and for long stretches during its creation, yet still was cohesive as a single body of work. The factor of time in the development of art is something that is less-valued in today's world, where instant everything is at our fingertips. Yet, in terms of development, time takes its own course, it cannot be rushed and will eventually, with great perseverance, factor into the art, in an almost subconscious way if we just let it. No amount of anxiousness will bring about that result.

The earliest piece shown, a graphite drawing of my violinist/composer friend, Temima Susskind, was one of many studies made while she was memorizing a set of Bach Partitas for performance. While she practiced I drew, drew, and drew.

The combination of her need for a live audience, even of one, and for me having the challenge of a model constantly in motion and absorbed in her own work was a particularly productive and mutually beneficial arrangement. The music served as a presence in the room which eventually worked its way into each drawing, though each time a different adjustment was made. Was the composition the key element, were the rapid movements of her hands the focus, was the rhythm the most important thing to convey? Each work resolved one facet of the challenge while the group of drawings overall saw a loosening up of my process and an attention to the particular dynamic contained within each sheet of paper.

Temima, Violinist Series graphite on Arches paper 37 x 45 cm 26.4.95 © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz

During the making of the Violinist Series I moved studios. Though the Ha Neviim Street studio was only two blocks from the Davidka Square workplace, the change required an adjustment to my new conditions. Much like having a new roommate, every studio move takes some time to settle in and discover its special characteristics, whether it is the quality of the light or a new view or observing shifts in a room's mood at different times of day and year.

The Davidka Square studio was situated on a very busy intersection, where Jaffa Road and Ha Neviim Street converge and a confluence of traffic, both vehicular and human, is always present. Getting to know my new space included taking advantage of its location with three windows bringing the world in and my gaze out. The expanse of the urban landscape was laid out before me and I painted it repeatedly, each time finding something new in it. Eventually, it was not the large expanse that pulled me in, but the vignettes that took place on the street right beneath me.

Once I realized being positioned exactly over the intersection could be a subject in itself, it was the play of light and shadows on the zebra stripes that attracted my notice. The pedestrians were directly beneath me, recalling a playground joke: 3 concentric circles indicated seeing a fat lady or man wearing a hat as seen from above. That old visual memory clicked in and pulled me to translate that specific view with the drama of strong sunlight on the street markings. As I continued working,  the rhythm and composition of the stripes within a standard format became ever more interesting, the split-second interactions on the street created small narratives, and the overall situation of crossing on permitted paths leading from one safe zone to another all combined to make the crosswalk a subject that continued to challenge me.
Wet Crossing 2007 egg tempera 28 x 16 cm © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz
Wet Crossing 2007 egg tempera 28 x 16 cm © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz
I also found that the quick changes in foot traffic could best be conveyed in a medium that had more immediacy than the way I was using oil paints. My studies included quick graphite drawings which eventually I combined with working directly in sumi ink, reducing the strong graphics of the zebra stripes to their black and white simplicity. The rainy days of winter included the muted color of egg tempera.

The latest two sets of paintings were created during the past year, in which I used multiple panels to split the sets of stripes and further focus on the movement in another way. One panel is a triptych, called "On the Edge" while the most recent work completed is called "Coming and Going."
Coming and Going 2014 oil on linen 40 x 100 © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz
Coming and Going 2014 oil on linen 40 x 100 © 2015 by Heddy Abramowitz
The influences for this series of works range as far afield as the Abbey Road album cover of the Beatles, to Corot who was present in my mind as I "followed the reds" of the street markings, to Mondrian's Broad Way Boogie Woogie for its graphic reduction of street movement. The significance of this group of drawings represented for me a cross point in another way as well, a turning point in my process, a loosening up of method.

I am pleased to share with you my interview with Ilene Prusher of TLV1 Radio, an on-line all English radio station broadcasting from Tel Aviv. We discuss the work in my current solo exhibition at the Tel Aviv Artists' House, what my original image resources were for these works and specifically discuss the oil painting "Shadow Couple." 

To listen to the radio program click here (replete with an example of our ubiquitous election advertisements):
The segment starts at 01:47:46 but if you want to hear the Beatles sing "Revolution" then you can listen from 01:43. Thank you for listening, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

This post was originally published on Times of Israel here or

Cross Point 
Artist House, 9 Alharizi Street, Tel Aviv
Hours are Monday - Thursday 10 am - 1 pm and 5 pm - 7 pm,
Fridays 10 am - 1 pm,
and Saturdays 11 am - 2 pm. tel. (03) 524-6685
through March 21, 2015.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Invitation to Solo Exhibit at Artist House, Tel Aviv

"Wet Day" 2006 oil on linen 20 x 30 cm ©2015 by Heddy Abramowitz
I am very pleased to invite you to the opening of my solo exhibit at the Tel Aviv Artists House this coming Thursday, February 26 at 7:30 pm, curated by Shimon Pinto.

Hours are Monday - Thursday 10 am - 1 pm and 5 pm - 7 pm,
Fridays 10 am - 1 pm,
and Saturdays 11 am - 2 pm. tel. (03) 524-6685

Closing March 21, 2015.

Very much looking forward to seeing you there.