I will be participating in the Salon ha Cubia exhibit opening October 28, 2017, at 8 pm in Nayot in Jerusalem, as part of the city-wide Manofim project. Closing January 25, 2018. Hope to see you there. Invitation

Pleased to be participating in the exhibition HOME(less) at HUC-JIR Museum NY. Running through the end of June 2018. For details see post

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sculpting the Human Form

Tamar Kadari, polyester (photographer: Yaki Assayag)

If you’ve visited  the Cinemateque and seen the exhibit on Teddy Kollek, it is but a few steps up Hebron Road to the Jerusalem House of Quality where the current exhibit is of sculptures by a group of artists who work directly from a shared model  in “Body/Human.”

It is worth exploring the building which itself is a conservation site and destination. Built originally as a hospital annex, Ben Gurion gave his approval for its use in the 60's to be used for artist workshops. Today it houses a number of crafts and artisan workshops of varying levels, including excellent silversmiths. With its beautiful courtyard, the gallery space hosts short-term art exhibits for groups and individuals. 

Aliza Teitelbaum, bronze

The differences between observational  figurative sculpting and figurative painting are fairly obvious: painting is two dimensional, deals with color, tone, light and composition within a fixed format and tries to convey three-dimensionality. Main issues for painters are costs of supports, paints and dry storage space to stack the finished works. Sculptors work in three dimensions, requiring circling the model and the sculpture to see both the model and the work from all angles. Sculpting is not the end of the job (unless from stone or other one-process material) and the results generally requires baking in a kiln or casting into some more permanent form, often very costly and technically demanding. Additionally, sculptors need lots of storage space and strong backs to lug their heavy works around.

Michal Steinitz Nissan, gray cement

Rodin said, “Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump.”  For painters, this reduction of the medium puts them in foreign territory, being accustomed to working in lines, stains and tonal or color masses. There is little doubt that painters who, at least for some time in their careers, turn to sculpting can find it a very absorbing battle in their examination of the body. Firstly, those who sculpt in clay, which is the generally preferred entry-level material, find that the tactile sense of being hands-on in the wet clay and physically building the form are aspects that they gain over painting; secondly, observing and working from all angles is a different exercise, one must have new takes on proportion and an understanding of viewing the work in the round, from above as well as below. It is a multi-sensory and physical  experience which ratchets up the act of observation. 

Torso, Naomi Schreibman, bronze

This exhibit combines the efforts of a group of sculptors (some also painters, some from other fields, artistic  and otherwise) who have been sharing the services of a model  from between two and up to ten years together. The aesthetically-arranged exhibit was curated by Anat Teitelbaum, an architect by profession. The group has received direction over the years from the late Henia Abramsky and currently from participant, Tamar Kadari, regarding  technical challenges, both of whom worked in the prior studio of Danny Grossman.

Aliza Teitelbaum, polyester

I found this modest exhibit to be a straight-forward  and unpretentious  examination into the practice of looking and responding to what is seen. There are, inevitably, pieces which echo influences of the greats; such as Giacometti, Moore, and Matisse. While the exhibit has its low points,  there is plenty to consider, including various busts by Regina De Pino-Sereni, and some paintings shown by Naomi Schreibman which make a nice juxtaposition for the sculptures. Other pieces, which exemplified the act of looking without pre-conceptions, were able to bring about another take on the human form, each feeling like a fresh small discovery (ends July 31).

Hadassah Berry, white cement

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Bit of This, A Bit of That: Revisiting Rehavia

"Golda's Kiosk" Heddy Abramowitz 2011

Dina Hanoch has announced an extension of the current exhibit “Portrait Art”  at the Nora Gallery.  It will be closing on September 30, 2011.

"Nora Gallery -Exhibit #495"  Heddy Abramowitz

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Curiously, Rehavia, as a neighborhood,  is becoming familiar to lovers of cinema worldwide. While the summer blockbusters have the masses running to see Harry Potter’s latest  adventures or Steven Spielberg's  summer offering, Jerusalem crowds are flocking to see Joseph Cedar's “He'arat Shulayim”  (Footnote).

New Yorkers are accustomed to standing in long lines to see movies, but it is a rare film in this city which sells out performance after performance. Winner of the  best screenplay award at the  2011 Cannes Film Festival,  the setting is staid Rehavia, to the delight of locals.

The basic plot involves professors,  father and son, who both are members of the same Hebrew University Talmud department, and unknowingly, both short-listed for the prestigious Israel Prize in their joint field. The father-son relationships in this story describe family dysfunction which reaches Biblical proportions and the issues resonate with universal appeal. Academics everywhere will undoubtedly appreciate the mirror held up to their milieu. Lior Ashkenazi (Walking on Water, Late Marriage, Hello Good-bye) and his counter-part,   Shlomo Bar Aba,  have endowed their characters with nuanced believability.

This film, with no chase scenes, gratuitous sex or violence (which may be a drawback for some), will appeal to lovers of intelligent cinema and dry comedy.  If this is screened in your area, run; do not walk, to go see it. And, if you are local, the best place to see it, of course, is the Smadar Theater in the German Colony, the last of the old Jerusalem movie theaters and now slated for preservation. To further maximize the experience:  invite a professor and a therapist to join you.

"Rehavia Dusk" 2011 Heddy Abramowitz 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Private Peeks at a Public Person: Teddy Kollek

 Osnat Shalev-Kollek

Family photos aren't normally the stuff of exhibits, but this is not just any family. Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem's mayor from 1965-1993, was the international icon of Jerusalem. During the post-1967 years of his tenure,   Teddy Kollek and Jerusalem were inextricably connected throughout the world; the name and the place were almost synonymous: Jerusalem was Teddy, Teddy was Jerusalem.

On the occasion of the centenary of his birth in Hungary, painter Osnat Kollek-Sachs, his daughter, and stills photographer Osnat Shalev-Kollek, his daughter-in-law, combine their talents and memories in homage to the great man in the exhibit  "At Home with Teddy" at the Jerusalem Cinemateque.

The Cinemateque is a most appropriate venue for an exhibit on Kollek. Housed in a building which seems to hang from the western cliff of the Hinnom Valley (once the location of  ancient pagan rituals) it overlooks the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, the pastoral slopes of goat paths and olive trees which lead gently  downwards  to the origin of Jerusalem, the City of David, and  present-day  Silwan. The building itself stands on the seam between the east and west sides of the city, and Mayor Kollek, who  was at the helm during the historic juncture which re-joined them into one city, was reputed to be a bridge-builder between those worlds.  

During my own first days in Jerusalem, the fledgling Cinemateque was housed in a shabby auditorium off the lobby of the Agron House, a center for journalists in the city center. The Jerusalem Foundation, a Kollek initiative, funded the Cinematheque project which helped bring Lia Van Leer's dream into reality in its present comfortable quarters. Now, with the Jerusalem Film Festival at its height, the exhibit space during intermission is so packed with film fans that it is hardly approachable, but it is well worth waiting out the crowds to view it during screenings when they disperse.

Centering on the last decade of his life, the paintings and the photographs both approach the man, who in his earlier years seemed to be larger than life, with an intimacy that one can only gain from observation within the innermost circles of family life. 

Kollek-Sachs, in her paintings, seems to rely on photography as one would a sketch - to trigger the memory of what is seen. Today, painters commonly use photography as a tool to aid them in bringing about their paintings. In my opinion, her more successful works are those where the photos serve as a take-off point for her paintings, rather than as a means to reproduce the moment.

Osnat Kollek-Sachs, oil painting, 1999

In the progression of paintings, we see Kollek morphing from the intimidating man behind his desk with his ever-present cigarette, to more and more simplified forms, as if we are watching him become a ghost image of himself.

Osnat Kollek-Sachs, Teddy on the Beach, oil painting, 2000

Shalev-Kollek's stills-photography also show us Kollek as he becomes an ever frailer, mellower presence in his fading years. We see him with Amos, his film director son, at Kibbutz Ein Gev, where Kollek was a founding member, we see the granddaughters goofing-off with granddad's walker, we see a father-daughter portrait, and many other quiet moments. Amongst the most touching is Kollek, who was raised in Vienna, kissing his granddaughter's hand, retaining even so late in his life the instincts of the charmer. 

A number of photos taken during the funeral of Kollek close the exhibit. Current President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and singer Shuli Natan are visibly shaken. (Kollek had asked composer Naomi Shemer to compose a song about Jerusalem and "Jerusalem of Gold" came out with then-unkown Natan performing it  at the 1967 Israel Music Festival.) The photo of Israel Museum Director James Snyder seen contemplating a portrait of Kollek, reminds us that building the Israel Museum was another of Kollek's achievements. Tamar, Kollek's widow, fragile in her mourning clothes, is seen in profile during the shiva (mourning) week. 
It is a perennial question for creators whether or not it is a betrayal of the privacy of their closest friends and relations to make use of material gleaned from their private lives as the basis upon which to pursue their art.  Common to writers as well, are our most intimate and private moments fair game as source material? 

We are grateful to Shalev-Kollek and Kollek-Sachs for answering in the affirmative. (Exhibition continues through the end of July).

Osnat Shalev Kollek 2004

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Facing Faces at the Nora Gallery

Gyulya Zilzer (1898-1969) Man with a Top Hat (1929)

TIME recedes when going to the Nora Gallery. Arriving to see “Portrait Art,” the 495th exhibit of this gallery, one cannot help but imagine Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood in days gone by. Tree-lined Ben-Maimon Boulevard evokes a different age.

A metal-shuttered kiosk still stands  in front of the gallery entrance and one  senses that it once must have done a brisk trade in gazoz  fizzy drinks and now defunct newspapers. Golda Meir, herself, was one of the more famous of the residents on this street where, in its heyday, the cream of Jerusalem gathered. While still the home to professors and journalists,  a trendier tone has evolved with sushi bars, high-end gourmet bakeries and vacation homes for the well-heeled.

The Nora Gallery, the Grande Dame of Jerusalem galleries and certainly one of the oldest in Israel, has its own illustrious history. Though founded in 1942, it has been in  its present location since 1952. Even the custom-made cabinetry in the gallery has a provenance: Mendel Cohen built the fittings which evoked the height of luxury when Israel was undergoing austerity periods and wood was a scarce building material. He was also carpenter to King Abdullah of Jordan, grandfather to the current king. The street-side salon is packed with fusty dried pomegranate and flower arrangements, art in every corner and piles of albums documenting the hundreds of art exhibits that have taken place here. Art researchers could have a field day exploring this trove.

The original owner, Nora (Eleonora) Wilensky,  after whom the gallery is named, amassed an art collection reflecting the feinschmecker cultivated tastes of the Jewish German refugee community that settled in Jerusalem. The  Jerusalem art scene of that day was heavily influenced by German expressionism, a significant body of the gallery’s collection, which also includes many works by Sonia Delauney, a pioneer in abstract painting and a personal friend of the founder.

Meir Ronnen, in his last column before retiring as the Jerusalem Post’s art critic in 1992,  described its role in “little” Jerusalem when everyone took a Saturday spazier:

In the good old days when everyone walked rather than rode and Jerusalem was heavily populated with art lovers, a  Sabbath morning walk to this gallery was de rigueur, followed by another stroll, en masse, to the Jerusalem Artists House. Hundreds of residents and many artists took part in these cultured processions. Everyone knew everyone else and lively discussions ensued.

Dina Hanoch inherited this gallery as well as her mother's astute eye and continues its operation on a  non-profit basis. This show, typical of group exhibits at this venue, combines works culled from the gallery’s collection with those of contemporary artists.

Bucking the fashionable and facile, this grouping of portraits and people,  evolved from a range of approaches and media, creates an artistic dialogue spanning nine decades. The artists themselves originate from more than fourteen countries from around the globe.

Portraiture, from ancient  to modern times, is the artistic genre that most connects us together in our shared humanity. We look at the portrait and take in  the myriad similarities and differences to ourselves; in facial features, age, race, gender, ethnicity, social status, and whatever else the artist brings to our attention. This exhibit, overall, shows work that seems less concerned with depiction and often  reveals something about the subject that goes beyond a likeness.

Hermann Struck, Portrait, 1925

Amongst the oldest of the fifty works shown are miniature-sized etchings by Hermann Struck depicting various serious and distinguished men. A master etcher, his works in this exhibit are representative of his finely cross-hatched etching technique. They contrast in approach to that taken by Jerusalem print maker, Eli Shvadron, who shows four etchings using different techniques, three of them showing couples, which were apparently inspired by family photos. Though created in recent years, they themselves hearken back to earlier times, implying a sense of the dynamic between the couple as well as their attitude to the viewer as they gaze out.

Eli Shvadron, Couple, etching, 2002

Jacob Pins developed a singular reputation as a wood carving printer and included herein are several examples of his skills including a self-portrait from his later years.Wood carving has become something of a lost art form having fallen out of fashion,  but here one can appreciate it at its best with simple shapes combining  minimal detail and the grain of the wood to make a strong impact.

Jacob Pins, Self-Portrait, Woodcut, 1993

Soldiers present another interesting contrast amongst these works.

Marian Marinel (1932-1955), The Officer, gouache, 1950
Marinel's portrait of an officer (perhaps the Russian army?) in dress regalia and medals made two years after the founding of Israel shows a high romantic sense. It contrasts sharply with the portrait of a young soldier by Kroner, who focuses on fear and isolation.

Thomas Kroner (1909-1992), The Soldier, aquarelles, 1963

Portrayals of women also display a range of approach. Yitzhak Greenfield's drawing of a young Israeli woman echoes European modern artists and displays a pared-down simplicity in the basic household objects behind her while he focuses on the swirls of hair and tapering fingers.

Yitzhak Greenfield, Tzippora, drawing, 1956

Sasha Okun's drawings nod to earlier artists with Rembrandt evident as an influence. Here, he shows the woman incongruously undressed with a fully-clothed male which perhaps is his contemporary twist on similar scenes from previous artists, such as "Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe" by Edouard Manet. Okun has long explored the aging body and the sexuality of those getting on in years, combining the grotesque with his tongue in cheek sense of humor or despair.

Sasha Okun, drawing,  circa 2006

Despite its central location, Nora has lost its centrality as an influential gallery. Artistic tastes have moved on in favor of other avenues.Yet, there is also a backlash movement, with many artists in Israel, as elsewhere, exploring the lessons of earlier masters and showing renewed interest in figurative and observational painting and drawing. They will find what to admire here. (Through the end of August).

All images courtesy of Nora Gallery

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Short Break

I request your indulgence while  a very small renovation has taken over my life temporarily. I will resume with more on art and Jerusalem in the coming days. Thank you for your patience.