Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hugging and Wrestling : Contemporary Israeli Photography and Video

Hugging and Wrestling : Contemporary Israeli Photography and Video
On view September 12th, 2009 through January 10th, 2010
MOCA Cleveland

Marjorie Talalay, Peter B. Lewis, and Video Galleries

Curated by Margo A. Crutchfield, Senior Curator

ARTISTS ON VIEW>> Yael Bartana, Rina Castelnuovo, Natan Dvir, Barry Frydlender, Ori Gersht, Dana Levy, Adi Nes, Michal Rovner, Rona Yefman

In recent years, Tel Aviv has emerged as a vibrant artistic center that has increasingly gained recognition on the global art stage. Hugging and Wrestling presents outstanding photographic and video works by some of the most talented Israeli artists working today, most of whom live in or are from Tel Aviv.

The phrase "hugging and wrestling with Israel" was coined by MAKOM Israel Engagement Network, and is explored on their site, and in this article.

In Hugging and Wrestling, a vivid portrait of Israel emerges through the perspectives of nine artists who respond to the complex shifting realities of the country today. The images are both beautiful and powerful, some deeply personal, others more philosophical, some political. With distinct points of view, the artists portray a land rich in history, and the convergence of multiple cultures, beliefs, and ways of life. But while the artists embrace Israel, they wrestle with political discord, religious divisions, and social inequities. They search for personal and collective identity in a vibrant, evolving, contemporary culture, while wrestling with the vulnerabilities of a country with contested territories where conflict is imminent and ever present.

Ori Gersht's evocative photographs of ancient olive trees portray the Israeli landscape as a sacred space, a land of indisputable beauty and strength that is nonetheless scarred and fragile. More universal are Michal Rovner's ambiguous, almost abstract works of projected video imagery that probe such issues as loss, survival, change, and humanity's place in the universe.

Bartana's video installation, Trembling Time, 2001, explores Israeli social mores and rituals, examining the relationship between the individual and society. The large-scale panoramic photographs by Barry Frydlender depict daily life in Israel, ranging from a cosmopolitan Tel Aviv street scene, to a beach rock concert, to the aftermath of a suicide bombing at a popular café.

From a Christian baptism to a Purim celebration, Natan Dvir portrays the depth and rich diversity of religious faith in Israel. Adi Nes draws on his religious heritage in portraits that are based on biblical stories. But Nes does so in contemporary terms, using the homeless as his subjects in striking works that become social critiques that metaphorically fuse the past and present.

Both Rina Castelnuovo and Natan Dvir's images of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict portray the human cost of that tragedy, from both sides. Artist Dana Levy 's poignant video installation Dreamers, 2007, presents individuals from various walks of life - Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian - as they relay their dreams, their hopes, and wishes for a better world. In their video installation, Rona Yefman and Tanja Schlander recreate the persona of Pippi Longstocking, who, performed by Tanja Schlander, engages in a preposterous yet humorous attempt to pull apart the Abu-Dis wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories. Representing a cultural shift among some from a younger generation of Israelis who are more open to political change and transformation, this work of art holds the promise of hope and resolution.

Thoughtful, at times re-evaluating long held beliefs, and often poignant, the art in this exhibition embraces Israel while wrestling with its internal and external challenges. In the end, the exhibition presents a celebration of artistic excellence through the work of a selection of Israel's most talented and celebrated contemporary artists.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Rosalie and Mort Cohen

Artists' websites:

Yael Bartana:

Rina Castelnuovo:

Natan Dvir:

Barry Frydlender:

Ori Gersht:

Dana Levy:

Adi Nes:

Michal Rovner:

Rona Yefman:

Tanja Schlander:

No comments: