Monday, May 19, 2008

Artists Absorb Israel’s Six Decades, and Move On !

Not “The Last Supper”: Israeli soldiers and a work by Adi Nes at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

ARTmostfierce had a busy weekend with the NY Photo Festival, family graduation visit and a couple of benefits that are up this week...never enough time!

In the meantime...
Please enjoy this article by Ethan Bronner of the New York Times. Adi Nes's work is discussed
and he is quite know already in the New York art circles. Check out his work and keep an eye on him.

JERUSALEM — At first glance it seems a straightforward if animated photograph of Israeli soldiers in a mess hall: uniformed young men chatting, pouring, laughing, smoking at a set of utilitarian tables bearing metal bowls and nondescript food. But it doesn’t take long to sense that the scene is spiritually and sexually charged. The men are a little too handsome and draped a little too casually over one another, and their group pose is a little too evocative of a certain iconic meal.

Adi Nes’s untitled work is widely known as his “Last Supper,” and its homoerotic challenge to Israeli machismo and its reference to the Christian message of looming betrayal and death have made the photograph one of the better known pieces of contemporary art in Israel. Along with 59 other works, including videos and interactive installations, it is featured in an ambitious, sometimes macabre and often witty show at the Israel Museum here.
Called “Real Time: Art in Israel, 1998-2008,” the exhibition is one of six to be rolled out over the coming months to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary. There will be one show for each decade of the country’s existence, each in a different museum across the country.
The Israel Museum, which, under its director, James S. Snyder, likes to think big and make waves, chose the most recent decade for its show. And while it can be hard to gauge the durability of new art, Mr. Snyder and a curator of the show, Amitai Mendelsohn, say that Israeli artists are undergoing a rare flowering, gaining international recognition for works that make universal statements about very Israeli phenomena.
“We have entered a kind of dream-come-true period, meaning Israeli art has turned very international without losing its Israeli feel,” Mr. Mendelsohn said.
A soaring number of Israeli artists are enjoying solo exhibitions in the United States, including Sigalit Landau, whose eerie, dreamlike installations are on view at the Museum of Modern Art; Barry Frydlender, whose large digitally compressed color photos of daily life here were shown at MoMA last year; and Yael Bartana, whose videos will be at P.S. 1 in Queens in the fall. All are represented in the Israel Museum show.
“I think this success is partly about artistic maturation, absorbing their heritage and moving on,” Mr. Snyder, who was hired from MoMA 12 years ago, said on a recent walk-through of the show, which continues through Aug. 30.
“There has been a kind of synthesis into modernity,” he added. “These artists grew up here and absorbed 60 years of history and integrated it into their worldviews.” Some of the strongest pieces are digital and video works, he said, “and this too is very representative of Israel, which is undergoing a high-tech boom.”
All of those trends are reflected in a video by Ms. Bartana of the two minutes of stillness observed on the country’s Memorial Day for the fallen in Israel. Each year, in April or May, a piercing siren is heard across the land, and Israelis of all stripes stop what they are doing — including driving — and stand in a haunting, unitary silence.
Ms. Bartana’s video is shot from a bridge above a Tel Aviv highway. At first cars whiz through a tunnel. Suddenly, a few stop, and their doors open. The drivers emerge. Others follow. The drivers stand, their minds doubtless caught between their individual concerns and their collective identity. Some parts are shot in slow motion and manipulated so that vehicles vanish or pull along ghosts of themselves, forcing the viewer to contemplate what the ritual means. The piece is called “Trembling Time.”
Most of the 40 artists in the show were born after the 1967 Six-Day War, a watershed in Middle East history. It is hard to know what that suggests about their perspectives. But the artists are relatively young and seemingly less burdened by the need to embrace or reject Zionist history or by the sense of isolation that typified life in Israel until the 1990s, when the Arab boycott against the country collapsed, cable television arrived and the Internet took over consciousness.
Artists react to artistic tradition, speaking across generations to, and of, their colleagues, but also often to the specific moment in which they are creating. The decade this group represents, 1998 to 2008, was seemingly event-filled — the attacks of Sept. 11 in the United States, the war in Iraq, the second intifada (or Palestinian uprising), Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the war between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. Yet there has been little serious art focused on those events in this country.
Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi, a sociologist at Hebrew University who wrote an essay on the decade for the show’s catalog, says the period being addressed was one of indifference — “with nothing new to say, no new song, no refreshing or exciting project, no youth, nothing innovative or original in Israeli society.”

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