By Ben Schachter
The Jerusalem Biennial began in 2013. Organized by Ram Ozeri, the Biennial has steadily grown in size and invites artists and artists groups from all over the world to exhibit their work in Jerusalem. This year the organizers considered proposals centered on the theme “Watershed.” This post is the first in a series looking at some of the exhibitions opening on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2. Each post will include descriptions of artworks on view, curatorial themes and broader observations.
The exhibition “Between Heaven and Earth” is curated by Ori Soltes. Soltes thought about “watershed” as it relates to landscape. The artworks he chose, “allude to the biblical, the post-biblical watersheds.” But watershed does not need to relate only to water. A moment in time can also be watershed, a struggle or trauma. With this wider lens, Soltes presents artworks that directly or tangentially touch rabbinic, mystical and even non-Jewish themes. His eclectic choices help to pull on one of his obsessive interests, what is at the core of Jewish art?
Click on images to enlarge:
Several works are easily related to landscape and the land of Israel. For instance, Carol Buchman provides an aerial view of the Dead Sea while at the bottom of the picture a woman sits by the shore. She appears to write in the light sand, but the markings she makes are too dark. The title, Blackfire on WhiteFire #2 relates the figure’s activity to a mystical interpretation of the written Torah.
Ellen Holtzblatt offers Before the Sun and Moon, the Stars a painting done in her enervated style. Prickly finger-like plant forms reach up from the bottom of the canvas into a cracked blue sky. Is this mid-autumn or after the thaw before spring can be seen? Perhaps it is the metaphysical moment after the stars but before the sun was created.
The breadth of this show is very clear. Some work takes inspiration from various schools of abstraction. These works include Exodus Redux by Richard McBee, Belly of the Beast 1 (Jonah) by Jan Greenfield, Susan Schwalb’s Harmonizations #5, and a series of flowing landscapes by Tobi Kahn.
Still others use fractured figures and biomorphic forms in sculpture. These works include #1 Espinoza by Bilha Zussman and Headless Male (Sub Lime Light Installation) by Alex Kohav. Several artists use the printed word and references to folios. Mark Podwal combines text and images. Miriam Stern and Siona Benjamin lean on the format of illuminated manuscripts and miniatures, and Jane Logemann uses words as textural elements. There are prints, photographs and other media. Videos by Beth Krensky and Sarah Lightman take us temporarily outside the gallery into both near barren landscapes and artist’s internal recollections.
(My work is also included among these fine artists. I’ll let you explore it on your own.)
Taken as a whole, these images remind us what it means to be “Between Heaven and Earth.” What is that? To be human. We find our way, physically and spiritually, somewhere between the soil and the sky. These artists invite us to tag along for a little while.
Jerusalem Between Heaven and Earth is on view from October 1 – November 15, 2017.
Exhibit I has an opening reception on October 1 at 8 PM at the Bezeq Building, 12 Chopin Street, Jerusalem. Hours: Oct. 8-Nov. 15, Sunday – Thursday 10:00-16:00.
Exhibit II has an opening reception on Oct 2 at 5 pm, Machtarot Museum, 1 Mish’ol ha-Gvura Street, Jerusalem. Hours: Oct. 8-Nov. 15, Sunday – Thursday 09:00-17:00.
Ben Schachter received a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in studio art and art history, and received an MFA in studio art and an MS in art history and criticism from Pratt Institute. He is currently professor of visual art and chair of the Fine Arts department at Saint Vincent College. He exhibits regularly and gives public lectures. In the Fall of 2017 his first book “Image, Action and Idea in Contemporary Jewish Art” will be published.