Beyond Richness: A new narrative in Israeli art

Nurit David

Nurit David

The exhibition Beyond Richness points at the way in which art reflects the changes which have occurred in Israeli culture over two decades, and especially during the 1990’s, when profound cultural transitions took place in Israel. Through the various works of art one will find fascinating evidence of cultural processes, of a change in essential outlooks on ways of life, on their style, and on the aspirations and desires of the Israeli public.

JOSEPHS SUIT

JOSEPHS SUIT

Powerful forces acted throughout the last decades on Israeli culture, pushing aside traditions and attitudes, which had appeared as if cast and affixed into the local culture. Yet other, entirely diverse, attitudes arose and ousted their predecessors. Communal and socialist attitudes and their derivatives stepped aside: the individual replaced the communal, the city became the center of the cultural and political realms, while the kibbutz and the cooperative settlements were set aside as power house; finance, economy and hi-tech replaced the army as the source of leaders. An accelerated process of privatization penetrated fields and sectors thought to be forever identified with the public domain.

Adi Nes

Adi Nes

As in other areas, the cultural conversion also occurred in the field of art. The uniformity was broken within the central and dominant movement in Israeli art, a movement existing under the canopy of what was termed “The Want of Matter”, the name of a major exhibition held in 1986 at the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art. This movement ran within well-defined artistic boundaries. Artists aspiring to be accepted by the art milieu were well acquainted with the “do’s” and “don’ts”. It was not an easy code to crack, however, its presence was extremely tangible.

Alongside the “wanting” attitude’, which favoured relative restriction of representational means, other styles began emerging and developing, addressing expressions of material richness, refinement, seduction and elegance. This whole range of aspects was designed to tempt the spectator into analyzing the concepts underlying, or perhaps hiding behind, the initial eye-catching façade, in order to investigate and trace the social, economic and cultural phenomena emerging at the turn of the twenty-first century.

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Tali Amitai Tabib, Museum

Tali Amitai Tabib, Museum

The content-related and aesthetic juxtapositions presented by the works were created in retrospect, after analysis of the emergence of different representations which arose disjointedly in the course of the 90’s. The cultural issues clearly stem from different aesthetic urges, which draw artistic creation to multi-channeled and multi-layered realms of expression. Certain artists felt sufficiently secure and did not foster further commitment to one centralist paradigm. They had the courage to re-examine the borders and to define a personal statement relevant to the new circumstances.

Representations of seduction in art could prove to be a two-edged sword, since they may prompt the question of whether or not the power of seduction is equivalent to the extent of desire to make art a part of the capitalist system. Is art that addresses seduction, refinement, and a rich and shiny lustre an accomplice to capitalists attempting to convert cultural capital into financial capital? The exhibition Beyond Richness appears to present these deliberations, which concern many of the artists participating. Many of them consciously test the borders of artistic and cultural discourse in the face of the all-encompassing forces of the crass consumer world. They deal with experimentation, with an analysis of the tools of the media versus the tools of art, in order to create a work whose effect lasts beyond the initial moment of seduction. They create multi-layered works, works that are intentionally bewildering, made to arouse reflection and criticism amongst the viewers. The long and winding road raises many questions regarding the cultural direction in which local culture is headed, the regions it addresses, its historical circles and the ever-increasing association to financial mechanisms.

Exhibition held in 2006 at the Rami and Uri Nechushtan Muesum, Ashdot Yaacov, Israel. Curator: Hagai Segev

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