Yael Bartana, Yoav Miller, Uri Gershuni, Vered Nachmani, Gal Kinan, David Adika
Curator: Yaniv Shapira
The background to the exhibition “Reunion” lies in relationships of work, study, and friendship formed in the studios, classrooms, and corridors of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. The participating artists are from two consecutive Bezalel graduating classes (1996, 1997), who continued to develop an artistic and personal discourse with each other after their studies ended.
Through these meetings the idea to show together was formed. Usually the subject of a group show, its content and the objects shown, are planned in advance by the curator. In this case the process has been reversed. The idea and initiative for the exhibition came from the artists, who found the space to display the show – the gallery of Yaffa Braverman, and then agreed on a curator. The first meeting with everyone involved in the project was held last Pesach, successfully marking the start of the journey. The group meetings that followed already had the character of a reunion, with all that this entails. The feelings that accompanied the process of building the exhibition varied from excitement to doubt, exuberance to embarrassment, confidence to uncertainty. It was possible to discern the dialectic between each one of the participants – his uniqueness and artistic worldview – and the group character to which the exhibition aspired.
Within these conceptual circumstances the exhibition concept was distilled and its final character formed. The works exhibited here come from within this context, dealing with different aspects of “the group” – personal, local, national, and metaphorical. The exhibition works naturally along the axis between “class picture” and “class reunion,” between the artist balanced on the edge of an independent career, having graduated from the art academy, and the new meeting of artists-friends a few years later.
As mentioned, Bezalel was the starting point. In the introduction to the exhibition catalogue Bezalel Graduate held at the (1978), Prof. Ran Schori specifies the “work tools” that the academy supplies to its graduates. He states that the talents of a random group of students, chosen according to experience and seemingly tried and tested criteria, take on a different personality from class to class.
The art academy tries to educate every artist “so that he will be both devotee and dissenter, to be open and tolerant, but still to have the perseverance to stand against every fad and fashion.”1 An additional value is missing from this declaration of principles, and it is revealed to us here, in works prepared or chosen within the context of this exhibition and whose common feature is artistic discourse, mutual support, and friendship.
Meir Agassi drew an excellent correlation of the characteristics of a class picture, describing it as the moment of ultimate equilibrium; the moment when ´´everyone fulfils a key role in the theater of proof that our-school-holds-the-key-to life. Class pictures, like an individual portrait, always show the average, the sum total of ´our school.´´´2 In his article quoted here, which is dedicated to Christian Boltanski´s work Children of North Westminster Community School, 1992, Agassi aims to identify the individuality that is reflected in the collection of portraits hung in a straight line on the wall: ´´Despite the school uniforms… the ´school photographer´ captures the way each child has arranged his hair… he makes an inventory of eyes, of the way eyebrows meet, of the height of the brow, the shape of the nose, the curve of the jaw.´´ For him, ´´the uniformity is misleading and the difference bubbles up and breaks through the surface.´´3 In contrast to the (traditional) class picture, the class reunion naturally takes place after intervals of independent life and emphasizes the individuality and uniqueness of each artist, the path he have taken
In this ´´Reunion´´ the members of the classes come together again to take part in a joint exhibition. Now, ten years after their studies have finished. The works in the exhibition: Uri Gershuni returned to the corridors of Bezalel, and in a series of photographs captures the moment of innocence before studies begin – ´´potential artists´´ waiting for acceptance interviews.
Through the candidates – holding ´´poligal´´ plastic portfolios or works in primary colors – red, yellow and blue, Gershuni brings us back to the starting point of the beginner artist, the moment when the dream is all. Vered Nachmani exhibits a group of works in colored pencils depicting the studio spaces of the exhibition participants. As a painter, Nachmani uses qualities of line and color to sketch a sort of soul-contour of her friends, as they are observed from within their work spaces.
Beyond these characteristics, we can see in these paintings the works in this exhibition while they were still in the studio. The video works by Yael Bartena – When Adar Enters and Ad De´lo Yoda * act as metaphors for group attribution in Israeli society and of the relationship of the individual within the group. In the work When Adar Enters Bartena opens a window for a moment of collective loss of senses – bitter, funny, and ironic – in the closed Haredi ultra-orthodox community. In Ad De´lo Yoda the viewer finds himself an accomplice to the act of voyeuristically observing a boy, who watches from the sidelines at his friends´ ecstatic dance.
By showing these works by Bartena together, the dynamics of a group within a group are delineated – both ´´private´´ and ´´Israeli.´´ Yoav Miller places in the exhibition space a group of sculptures dealing with passages. The works, which seem to be similar to readymade objects, have an additional dimension of illusion/amusement that diverts them from their original role. Attached to Mould for a Sewage Pool is a clear Plexiglass pipe, sublime and catching the light, the opposite of what is found under the sewage drain cover – that is left to our imagination.
Metal Detector and Tire-Puncturing Spike are also disturbing in their presence and in the double-entendre of their functionalism. Yochai Avrahami deals with a struggle between various power groups. He has placed in the gallery display windows a family-like group of wild animals and pests of kinds identified with invading urban areas.
Paradoxically, Avrahami´s animals are made of grey plastic tubing, of building and agricultural materials, of pest extermination products – materials used to both help introduce and to exterminate these creatures. A pair of monitors placed on the edges of the display windows screen effects similar to the actions of professionals – plumbers, exterminators, and welders. The display in the gallery window follows the way in which materials and tools of the trades mentioned above are displayed in shop windows, with an ironic nod toward the shop windows found in the gallery´s neighborhood… The pair of images that David Adika has chosen to present – a group of desiccated passion fruits and a pile of coal are characterized by a dark, glossy patina, representations of still life, of death.
To this, add the titles of the works Mute 1 and Mute 2. Yet within the withered fruit and the extinguished fire lies the potential for life, continuation, and passion. Within the contexts of this exhibition they can be seen as positioned along the axis between ´´class picture´´ and ´´class reunion,´´ and all that is understood by these concepts. Karin Eliyahu shows a group of black and white photographs depicting group situations ranging from youth meetings – scouting activities, Lag B´Omer bonfires, to official national meetings – army induction lectures, a line of military vehicles.
Eliyahu defines groups belonging to ´´Israeliness´´ and creates something like a ´´tractate on contemporary groups´´ suspended between the romanticism of youth and adult commitment. The works´ titles – Activity, Lag B´Omer, One Day Soldier Performance, Professional Army, and Shir-el auto-categorize their place within the local.
Edna Ochana defines the gallery space with a net of threads caught in the image of a hot air balloon. The balloon, suspended between sky and earth, visualizes relations between the act of embroidery spreading through the space and a closed fetal position, between space and body. In this way Ochana tries to analyze the other ´´self´´ – fragile, separate, observing from the side.
Like the butterfly yearning to break out of its cocoon, but still in need of its protective casing. Within the context of this exhibition, she elaborates: ´´I want to fly, but am pulled down, I want to cut myself off, but feel surrounded.´´ Gal Kinan´s work is based on personal biography. ´´As a child I never knew exactly what my father´s workplace looked like,´´ she says, adding ´´I only knew that he worked at the atomic reactor but I had no idea where and what it looked like.´´ In the sculpture Atomic Kinan returns to the realms of her childhood.
In objects, some of which are anchored in reality, and some in the imagination, she merges the architecture of atomic reactors – mushroom-like structures and tall chimneys with figures cloaked in black in an attempt to imagine the world onto which her father was swallowed.