Six new exhibitions open at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art

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Six new exhibitions open at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art
Marik Lechner, Pinocchio Cloning, 2020, wool and cotton tufting on canvas, 270x300 cm, courtesy of the artist and Givon Art Gallery, Tel Aviv. Photo: Itamar Asher.

HERZLIYA.- The exhibitions focus on familiar elements from our immediate environment and on household objects that have undergone dynamic transformations of disruption, dismantling and anthropomorphizing, reflecting a Zeitgeist informed by uncertainty, absurdity, and threat.

Yael Frank: GRID
Recipient of the Keshet Award for Contemporary Art, founded by the Bar-Gil Avidan Family.
Curator: Paul Hobson

Yael Frank’s exhibition combines moving image and installation of sculptural elements, spilling over from the gallery space into the entrance hall of the Museum. Frank offers an amusing and touching metaphor for the cynicism of Israeli politics, through an immersive environment that includes distorted and fragmented forms.

The grid referred to in the project's title is a central integrating structure both in the site-specific installation and in the film Salami, which was shot in it. The film features a large sculptural object in the form of an elaborate, fantastical cat house forming the word Peace. The breakdown of the word neutralizes its meanings in the current discourse, while choosing to focus on a daily routine and suppressing a far-seeing perspective. The word Peace appears as a monumental ruin both in the film and throughout the gallery and entrance hall. This forms the physical environment which visitors enter, implicating them in the reality of political failure.

The presence of the cats in the work evokes an Israeli cityscape where feral cats are omnipresent. Frank is attracted to the ambivalent attitude of cats, their moral indifference, their territorial nature and tendency towards casual colonization. An important sculptural element in the installation is a number of exercise balls made of clay, with long, comedic noses. These sculptures are given a new resonance by the pandemic lockdown, seemingly referring to a situation of communal instruction and exercising at home, an absurd moment of mass mobilization orchestrated by the return of an iconic Israeli TV fitness instructor.

Frank’s use of the grid is designed to complicate and disorientate. In the film, it is used to map visual information. The illogic of attempting to data map an abstract ethical concept like peace is an act aligned to wider conditions characterized by disorientation, fragmentation and collapse.

Yael Frank’s exhibition is curated by Mr. Paul Hobson, director of Modern Art Oxford in Oxford, England. Hobson has over twenty years of experience in senior roles at the Contemporary Art Society, The Showroom, Serpentine Gallery, and Royal Academy of Arts in London. He is the director of Modern Art Oxford since 2013. Founded in 1965, the museum has a dynamic, changing program of temporary exhibitions, many ground-breaking, rather than a permanent collection. During Hobson directorship the museum had solo shows by Barbara Kruger, Jeremy Deller and Kiki Smith to name a few, and a Marina Abramović solo show will open this season.

Members of the Keshet Award jury: curator Edna Mosenson; curator Sally Haftel; curator Rula Khoury; artist David Adika; and Keren Bar-Gil, the award’s founder.
Yael Frank (born 1982, Tel Aviv, lives and works in Tel Aviv) holds an MFA from Bezalel Academy of Art and a BA from Copper Union, New York. She is the recipient of the 2017 Ingeborg Bachmann Scholarship established by Anselm Kiefer – Wolf Foundation, and was a resident at Artport residency program for 2019-2020. She has received grants and support from Artis, Ostrovsky Fund, Rabinovich Foundation and Mifal HaPayis. She exhibited in solo and group shows in Israel and abroad, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; FuturDome Milan; House of Art, Brno; The Israeli Center for Digital Art, Holon; Petach Tikva Museum of Art; Zachenta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; The Artists’ Workshops, Tel Aviv; Hezi Cohen Gallery, Tel Aviv; and Labyrinth Gallery, Lublin.

Marik Lechner: The Book of Changes
Recipient of the Lauren & Mitchell Presser Contemporary Art Grant
Curator: Dr. Aya Lurie

The exhibition features eleven huge tapestries from a series produced by Marik Lechner over the past three years. The woolen tapestries recount an epic apocalyptic tale of dynamic visions of life cycles under existential threat. The tapestry cycle offers a dystopian and fantastic outlook, a realm of abjection and magic, in a language that blends direct expressiveness, childish naivety, and dark symbolic mystery.

Over the years, Lechner has focused his work on oil paintings, drawings, and watercolors, but a few years ago he surprisingly presented a series of modestly-sized works that were all manually woven and deliberately poorly crafted. This revealed his attraction to labor-intensive handicrafts and textile works. For him, it was a connection to traditions that he has known since childhood as the son of a family of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. “On the walls of our house in Chernovitz,” he explains, “were hung colorful tapestries woven with figures from the world of legend, Russian mythology, and folklore. In Russia, tapestries were used as decoration and as a form of thermal insulation and room temperature control. Even after the move to Israel, they continued to adorn the walls of our home, despite the abrupt change in housing, climate, and culture.”

Lechner has transformed the familiar tapestry patterns into overtly brutal narratives which, notwithstanding the symbolic encoding, hold a mirror to our contemporary reality: intimidating creatures that viciously feed on each other, the pain of loss, imprisonment, addiction, preying on the weak, and fear of loneliness, disease, weakness, and death. The echoes of the past year are also evident in chaotic scenes of disarray. The tapestries are woven expressively, with threads of varying lengths, unraveled sections, holes, spray gluing, and spray painting onto the tapestry weave. Lechner’s tapestries may be read as part of a long tradition of fulmination against the existing order. It is a protest charged, in his case, with the cultural shock of immigration – a seed of calamity that erupts in the act of weaving, activated by an electric tufting gun that repeatedly pierces the fabric of the cloth with a prickly blade, perforating it like a machine gun.

Marik Lechner was born in 1967 in Ukraine, immigrated to Israel with his family in 1973, and lives and works in Be’er Ya’akov. Lechner graduated with highest honours from HaMidrasha School of Arts in 2001. He has had solo shows at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Givon Art Gallery, Tel Aviv; and Feinkunst Krüger Gallery, Hamburg among others, and has participated in group exhibitions in Germany, Latvia and Israel.

Anna Perach: The Moon Prophecy
Curator: Dr. Aya Lurie

The name of the exhibition – The Moon Prophecy – draws its inspiration from apocalyptic sermons and astrological theories that linked the phenomenon of lunar eclipses to biblical prophecies of the End of Days, as in Joel 3:15, “The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness.” Anna Perach brings to her exhibition a darkly appealing visionary dimension of a closed transformative system, in which the inanimate comes alive, the meek become dominant, and the familiar becomes alien.

At the center of Perach’s exhibition are three sculptures on a human scale. In recent years, Perach has developed a work practice centered on creating wearable sculptures via a carpet-making technique using a tufting gun. During her exhibitions, live performances are held, featuring performers who wear and embody the sculptures with ritualistic choreographed movements that blend together modern dance with ancient cultic dances.

Perach chooses her craft as a culturally charged pursuit, and not just from her personal experience of immigration to Be’er Sheva from Soviet Ukraine. Over the centuries, the status of oriental tapestries in Russian culture has undergone changes – from the glorious days of the Empire in the seventeenth century to their industrialized incarnation in the twentieth century as valiant attempts at beautifying and improving the thermal insulation of bleak Soviet housing. When wearing Perach’s tufted sculptures, they form a link to the diverse folkloristic legacies that have greatly influenced their ornamentations. As costumes, they effectively insulate one from the outside world and restrict one’s movement and actions in space. At the same time, they also underscore one’s presence within them and endow it with captivating drama. The mantle that Perach creates thus reflects experiences of inter-cultural transitions and culture shocks of immigration, as well as ever-changing self-representation and gender perception.

Anna Perach, born 1985 in the Ukraine, lives and works in London. She immigrated to Israel as a child in the 1990s, and her family settled in Be’er Sheva. She holds a BA from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem (2008) and a master’s degree from Goldsmiths, London (2016). She has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in private and public venues in London, Brussels, Athens, Budapest, and Tel Aviv. This is her first museum exhibition in Israel.

Tamir Erlich and Noy Haimovitz: Never Lose Your Head And…
Curator: Lilach Ovadia

Since time immemorial, humanity has been preoccupied with prophecies of the End Times and the fear of an apocalypse or catastrophe that brings about the end of the world – from natural disasters to nuclear attacks. The exhibition creates a New Age-like space that highlights the fear of the End; fear of death, both personal and collective, where external threats become abstract and amorphous.

Tamir Erlich and Noy Haimovitz invite us to enter a space where objects that speak the language of domesticity and safety while simultaneously perpetuating and underscoring the dangers lurking outside, which may or may not be real. Ranging from the purposeful to the decorative, these objects, which incorporate styles and trends of different decades, are blends of memory of the past and fear of the future to come.

The directive sign placed at the entrance to the exhibition space, “Never Lose Your Head And…,” is based on rules of conduct for survival of civilians in improvised, DIY fashion in the event of a nuclear attack. Such instructions were published by the US authorities in dozens of books and pamphlets during the Cold War. These publications – which included instructions for creating, among other things, sleeping solutions and devices for filtering radioactive water, and offered advice regarding nutrition, health, and leisure under apocalyptic conditions – served the artists as a guide or model in producing their project.

The absolute directive “Never Lose Your Head” is almost unattainable. It highlights the contradiction at the heart of the exhibition, where any attempt by the individual to exhibit control during a crisis becomes a manifestation of terror and anxiety – turning, in fact, into a monument representing the crisis itself.

Also presented is a new acquisition for the Museum’s collection of a project by Erlich and Haimovitz – the website BIDUD, which they set up. During the first nationwide lockdown imposed in Israel following the COVID-19 pandemic, from March 29 to May 16, 2020, creators in various fields were invited to produce works for the website. Bidud was acquired for the collection as part of the “COVID Diaries” call for artwork acquisition, generously supported by the late Michael Adler Fund and the Herzliya Museum Foundation.

Project jury: artist Sharon Poliakine; curator Yona Fischer; curator Tali Ben-Nun; curator Ran Kasmi Ilan; curator Lilach Ovadia; and curator Dr. Aya Lurie.
Tamir Erlich (born 1994, Holon) holds a master’s degree in sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London, and a BA in art from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. He studied in the Media Art department of the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, and participated in a student exchange program at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands. Participated in numerous exhibitions in Germany, UK, Poland, and Israel.

Noy Haimovitz (born 1988, Moshav Mishmar Ayalon) holds a master’s in art and a BA in design from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. Participated in the residency programs of East Elsewhere, Berlin; University of Fine Arts, Munster, Germany; Standpoint Gallery, London, and more. Participated in numerous exhibitions in Germany, UK, Poland, and Israel.

This is the artist duo’s first museum exhibition in Israel.

Smadar Eliasaf: Fire and Dust
Curator: Dr. Aya Lurie
Text by Dr. Ayelet Zohar

Smadar Eliasaf’s studio functions as a camera obscura – a space that generates images as traces of touch and movement, traces of feet, body, and skin. The paintings are performed by the walls and the floor in a process that corresponds to photography and Automatism. They are traces of presence, indexical expressions of a process that lies beyond sight, volition, consciousness, decision, or even choice. In this they reflect Freud’s reference to the process of photography as a metaphor of the unconscious. Eliasaf’s works paint themselves in the manner that certain photographs occur accidently – silent evidence to an action or process that took place in the past. The dark aspect of Eliasaf’s art also pertains to its dark colors, the tearing and hacking of the painting’s format, and their reference to a threat outside the walls.

Early on in her artistic development Eliasaf used her own garments, soaked in paint, to smear it over the surface of the canvas, which retained the memory of the performative painting events. Gottfried Semper, in his canonical text on Textile Art, asserted that architecture originated in textiles. The tent, he claimed, exemplifies the need to demarcate the boundaries between interior space and the exterior, embodying the friction zone between textile and architecture. In the same vein, Eliasaf has often linked fabric and structure in various ways, such as deconstructing wooden frames and reshaping them into newly invented shapes, echoing the plain structures of the classic Japanese home, whose materials and construction take into account the potential threat of an earthquake.

The last series in the exhibition is reminiscent of damaged skins, echoing Didier Anzieu’s notion of the Skin Ego, which refers to the skin as a protective layer, a shield and an interface with the world, forming the boundary between the inner (self) and the outer (world). Yet one may regard the skin, as in Chinese medicine, as a perforated layer, a sieve that allows the flow of energy and “wind” between the inner organs and the external sphere. Eliasaf’s new series embodies the tension between these two outlooks with damaged, deconstructed, perforated, and permeable skins, which allow an exchange between the internal and the external, between self and the world. The damaging of the external layer endorses the image of the inner nature to perform itself on the surface – body and soul.

Smadar Eliasaf (born 1952, Haifa) studied at Hamidrasha School of Art, Ramat Hasharon, and taught at Hamidrasha School of Art, Beit Berl College, from 1997 to 2003. In 1995 she was awarded the Minister of Science and Art Prize. Her works are held in numerous private and museum collections. Since the late 1970s she has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries, including Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod; Petach Tikva Museum of Art; Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan; Haifa Museum of Art; Julie M Gallery, Tel Aviv; and Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv.

Hilla Toony Navok: Awaiting the Sun
Curator: Dr. Aya Lurie

Hilla Toony Navok is the recipient of the 2020 Discount Artistic Encouragement Award at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art.

Hilla Toony Navok presents, in the Great Hall of the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, a new sculptural kinetic installation that exposes the vulnerability, pain, and beauty of the materials used to shield us from the Israeli sun.

Created especially for the Great Hall, the work makes use of the unique form of the gallery’s ceiling, composed of a series of covered skylights, to turn the natural sunlight and ceiling covers into sculptural materials.

The central sculptural piece in the exhibition is made of the wooden pergolas and PVC sheets familiar from every yard and kiosk around the country. The artist used them to create a kinetic sculpture that is constantly assembled and disassembled at the same time. Installed at the heart of the large hall it invites the viewer to enter it, sit down, and discover from a new perspective - a surprising and abstract one - the most familiar materials in the Israeli street and home.

Discount Award jury: Shulamit Nuss, Curator in Charge, Discount Bank Collection; Roni Gilat-Baharaff, Director of Christie’s Israel; curator Irit Hadar; and curator Roni Cohen-Binyamini

Hilla Toony Navok (born 1974, Tel Aviv) pursues both drawing and sculpting. She holds a bachelor’s degree in design from WIZO Haifa, and a master’s degree in art from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. Teaches sculpture at Bezalel and Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, Ramat Gan. She is a recipient of the Discount Artistic Encouragement Award, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art (2020); the Rapaport Prize, Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2020); Minister of Culture Award (2019); The Israel Museum’s Kolliner Award for a Young Israeli Artist (2018), among others. Her works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries in Israel and abroad. A work by Navok is on permanent display at the New Train Terminal in Jerusalem (Navon Station). She has published two books (2018, 2019).

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