Curated by Shosh Dagan, “Confluence: Israel” sheds light on the experience of living and working in Israel through the eyes of emerging and established Israeli artists, through April 25 at Art Center Sarasota. The featured artists include Joseph Dadoune, Eyal Fried, Ravit Gat, Aviv Gad Keller, Iddo Markus, Boris Nekrasov, Samantha Adler de Oliveira, Sara Shuraki Zisken, Ohad Zlotnick and Yonatan Zofy.
Photographer Eyal Fried says his camera provides, “an entry permit to the depths of daily life.” With that permit firmly in hand, the artist traverses his country photographing Israeli “leisure behaviors,” with a special fascination for Russian immigrants in remote areas. According to Fried, “I shoot whatever forces itself on me in any given encounter — recording the gestures, the postures, the relationships between people and their environment, and all the casual accidents in the scene. I don’t judge, I don’t conceptualize, I don’t plan. I am only a receiver. I capture each moment just as it is.”
Joseph Dadoune is a renowned photographer, video artist and director. His 2008 film “Ofakim” documents the cultural and social life of Ofakim, a town where he largely spent his childhood. It was one of the “instant towns” of Israel’s nascent days — a social engineering experiment that thrust thousands of immigrants into the wilderness, often unwillingly. In one memorable scene, a group of young men and women stand motionless in a deserted factory. Suddenly, they walk, carrying a missile past military bases in a pointless Sisyphean march. The artist observes that, “Ofakim is at the periphery of Israel. It's a powerful symbol of Israel's fragile reality in this region. By telling its story, I tell the story of the working class of our times.”
Ravit Gat is an innovative painter and textile artist. “Encounters with life are necessary for my work,” she says. “I don’t need optimal conditions and assume that I would create nothing at all if I was sent to work on a remote island with an unlimited budget. Life’s beat, pulse, pain, joy and agony are the fuels that fire my creation. I internalize my life experience outside the studio, return, transform my inner life into art, and then send it back to the world. In this way, my work is constantly oscillating between inside and outside worlds.”
Aviv Gad Keller describes his embroidered canvases as, “a personal language that I’ve developed in my search for new means of expression. I regard it as a form of painting and use the knowledge and tools of a realistic painter to create it.” To make his art, Keller begins with photographs of Israeli urban and rural landscapes, which he transfers onto canvas through a meticulous drawing technique. Once the image is laid out, his embroidery begins. “While I try to stick with the original image, I also take it into a new, more liberated expressive realm,” Keller says. He adds that, “The resulting work is detached from conventional art mediums and genre contexts. It’s a hybrid of past techniques and contemporary realistic painting that hints of a style of the future.”
Iddo Markus has recently devoted himself to working on miniature paintings and small-scale formats. With the aid of micro-miniature woodblocks, a paintbrush and great patience, he creates his Lilliputian scenes. Then he gives each image a home in installations reflecting his ongoing investigation of the history of Western landscape painting. Markus’ history lesson moves from J.M.W. Turner to Mark Rothko to ironic examples of the lifeless, post-industrial landscapes of today that most painters shun. “With each installation, I tie all the miniatures together in a modern grid,” says Markus. “The result leaves all romantic ideas behind.”
Boris Nekrasov is a painter and multimedia artist. His fragmented art reflects his fragmented experience. The artist was born in Moscow in 1985 and moved to Israel at the age of five. He says that, “I translate my childhood memories into art through the themes of movement and breaking.” To achieve this translation, the artist often creates his mixed-media piece from found materials. “I tend to experiment rather than pursue a fixed intention,” he says. “By taking the material away from its original setting, the work transforms and tackles time.”
Samantha Adler de Oliveira is a videographer and artist who originally trained as a dancer. About her marquetry series, shown in this exhibition, she says, “I use a traditional, time-consuming handcraft technique to rework images drawn from popular digital games and YouTube videos. In each image, the protagonists have been removed so that the viewer's focus of attention is shifted towards the image's architectonic background. A few transient virtual spaces of daily contemporary life are thus frozen in time and given center-stage, for the viewer to observe and walk in.”
Sara Shuraki Zisken’s works in clay reveal the inspiration of Hebrew letterforms and offer a meditation on humanity’s uneasy relationship to the physical world. “Clay is of the earth,” she says. “It’s the rawest and most basic material into which the artist breathes the spirit of creation.” Zisken adds that, “The Hebrew word for man/human is adam, and for earth is adama. We come from the earth and must return to the earth. But human beings, like all of creation, are combinations of the material and the spiritual. We are of the earth, but are also emanating from a higher, heavenly place.” How does Zisken reconcile this duality? “I don’t but I try,” she says. “The search for the unity of creation is the driving force behind the innovations of art.”
Ohad Zlotnick translates 2D forms into 3D objects that interact with the viewer’s observation point. His work, “Parallax,” comprises 22 origami-like sculptural elements made from laser-cut steel folded to form the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. According to the artist, “These forms represent a new kind of typography in three-dimensional space.” Zlotnick will travel to Sarasota for this exhibition, where he will construct the entire Hebrew alphabet in cardboard 3D shapes, and also exhibit four-colored, steel sculptures of letters.
Yonatan Zofy is in love with drawing — and the expressive honesty and connection to the now that only a pencil can provide. His latest drawing series, “Physical Images,” steps back from picturesque surfaces and brings us closer to the intimate reality within. Zofy’s “Window” is one example. Here, the effect of city lights emerging from trees marks the serendipitous moment of contact between graphite and canola oil. “The halo of light dissolves at the edges of the graphite, marking the boundary where the oil stopped expanding over the paper’s surface,” says Zofy. “It’s a mark on space recording a process in time.”
In her curator’s statement, Shosh Dagan describes contemporary art as a universal language, spoken by visual artists around the globe. At the same time, she notes that every artist speaks with the accents of home. “Hand in hand with art’s universality, art must always be specific to a time and place,” she writes. “The cradle of the true artist is ‘location,’ ‘home,’ and ‘homeland.’ Today’s Israeli artists are no different. The sacred forms of the Hebrew language, the brightness of Israel’s landscape, and the depths of its spiritual and cultural struggles inform their work. I invite you to experience a small sample of their endless creativity.”
Confluence: Israel. March 13-April 7, Art Center Sarasota, 707 N. Tamiami Trai, Sarasota. Opening reception: Thursday, March 13, 5-7 p.m. Ohad Zlotnick will give an artist’s talk on Friday, March 14, 2 p.m. For more information, call 365-2032 or visit www.artsarasota.org.