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Michal Arieli, Efrat Gal & Michal Rothchild | Once

March 18 - May 08, 2010

Efrat Gal

Michal Arieli

Michal Rothchild

Once is a two-person exhibition of artists Michal Arieli and Efrat Gal, complemented with a single work by Michal Rothschild. A past that insists on reemerging in the present time envelops the works of these three artists. Personal and collective memories appear in the form of images that preserve the aesthetics of nostalgia along with renewed and rather emotional contemplation. The chronological scope of the exhibition's works is analogous to that of the memory of a person of our time. Beyond childhood and the attempt to recapture it, this memory actually begins with photographic documentation, remote as it may be, namely: in the photographed past that accompanies one's childhood and adolescence experiences. The present time, the spontaneous perception of everyday moments that have yet to become personal or national history, marks the end of this memory.

Michal Arieli gazes at people's daily conduct in cemeteries. The figures are seen kneeling beside graves, hidden among them, whereas the tools and devices they use appear colorful and clear. In one painting, a woman's hand cleanses a grave as if trying to preserve something frozen by time. The hand creates a ceremonial link to the now, to our daily routine.

In another series, Arieli presents drawings done from photographs of Israeli urban street scenes. This traveling photography incidentally freezes routine and everyday moments. The colorful opulence endows the street and the people therein with vitality and dynamics.

Efrat Gal uses different techniques to paint various frames from Israeli recent history: images of Zionist iconic figures, which even today seem almost consumeristic in the way they appeal to the nobler and finer in the Zionist outlook. Their alluring, enchanting nature affirms their indispensability for the make-up of our national personality.

Exploring the points in which that alluring magic was created, Gal examines how, as a child, she was captivated by those mythical figures and their romantic stories. In her works, the images remain eternal, almost unaltered, as if she had painted them in order to decode a family secret, but nevertheless has left them open for interpretation. In a pencil drawing of Hannah Szenes and a cow, for example, the smiling national heroine looks directly at the camera and transmits a plethora of pioneering messages devoid of the stilted embellishment of the film Exodus (starring Paul Newman), frames from which are juxtaposed to her image.

Gal's previous body of works dealt with her grandmother's family hailing from Germany. By painting old family photographs, she attempts to decipher her family secrets and unveil the link to her forebears and to the landscapes in which they lived.

Like Arieli in her cemetery series, Gal, too, is trying to preserve a congealed time and fixate the faded. Both artists deal with European diasporic past and with mythical and everyday Israeli existence. They do so by painting photography that perpetuates family portraits from Germany, Poland and the kibbutz. Their works evoke Yiddish literary images – for example, Arieli's series of paintings after Yisroel Rabon's Di gas (The Street) – or Israeli canonical literature such as Dvora Omer's Le'Ehov Ad Mavet (Till Death Do us Part).

Michal Rothschild joins the two with a single work entitled Home-House, and One Source of Light. Rothschild complements the generally unpolished aspect of the exhibition with the near-obsolete technology of slide projection. The projected image of the house creates a trompe l'oeil effect of a three dimensional structure, which is also reflected on the gallery's wall. The work adds volume and dynamics to the single, congealed image in a manner that reverberates with the artist's own childhood memories as well as with the collective yearning for the idea of "Israeli (or even kibbutz) house" – a little tile-roofed house with a garden.

From Hebrew, Aya Bruer


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