Look, but don’t touch
On display

Look, but don’t touch

The wonders of texture, fabric and metaphor in three current exhibitions

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Weaving hand-dyed wool for a wall tapestry, or wood for an alternative blanket, are all par for the course in the new Eretz Israel Museum exhibit (photo credit: Leonid Padrul)
Weaving hand-dyed wool for a wall tapestry, or wood for an alternative blanket, are all par for the course in the new Eretz Israel Museum exhibit (photo credit: Leonid Padrul)

Some museum exhibits beckon visitors. It’s often those that touch on the objects and pieces of real life — whether it’s King Herod’s bathtub, or famed artworks depicting places and people — that feel familiar to every viewer.

But there’s something to be said for exhibits that offer the quieter possibility of touch and texture (even if you can’t actually touch the items on display, although your fingers may itch to), urging us to think about how something is made, and the different elements that come into play in creating one particular piece.

Those are some of the themes running through several exhibits currently on display at the Eretz Israel Museum, the Israel Museum, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

It’s all about varied textiles in “Woven Consciousness,” the exhibit that opened February 17 at the Eretz Israel Museum, and which will run through June 15. Curated by Irena Gordon, the exhibit includes works of textile from 59 designers, multimedia artists and visual artists, some of whom work solely on textiles, others who took on the task specifically for the exhibit.

59 artists have their work displayed in 'Woven Consciousness' (photo credit: Leonid Padrul)
59 artists have their work on display at the Eretz Israel Museum in ‘Woven Consciousness.’ (photo credit: Leonid Padrul)

Considering that Israel’s local textile industry — geared for the mass market — has all but collapsed in recent years, Gordon credits the design schools for the recent explosion in textile designers, who are slowly but surely bringing their handiwork to the local fashion and industrial design industry.

The works in “Woven Consciousness” vary wildly, from feminist quilts that debate 1970s American TV shows and folk-inspired, embroidered plates and tablecloth for a family meal, to a tank top made entirely of ceramic beads and a tabletop tray of beads fashioned from old sheets.

Some of the works bring a feminist, folk reality to textile, others are geared toward industrial design (photo credit: Leonid Padrul)
Some of the works in ‘Woven Consciousness’ bring a feminist, folk reality to textiles; others are geared toward industrial design. (photo credit: Leonid Padrul)

In terms of textures, and the skills brought to bear in creating them, the collection is inspiring and astounding. Wood is bent into shapes as malleable as fabric, and creamy white material is stamped and lined until it becomes a kind of material light bulb. One artist wove a tapestry as shaded and rich as any oil painting, and another used rubber to create a floor-to-ceiling installation of gossamer-thin strands.

You may want to bring one of the rugs home, and — at the very least — you’ll have a whole new way of appreciating fabric.

From the sand exhibit, Drora Dominey,  Sand more Sand, 2008-2013 (Courtesy Israel Museum)
From the dust exhibit at the Israel Museum: Drora Dominey’s ‘Sand More Sand, 2008-2013’ (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Museum)

Over at the Israel Museum, two different exhibits engage visitors by looking at very physical objects with which humans are confronted on a daily basis. “Collecting Dust,” curated by Tami Manor-Friedman (through April 5), looks at how dust — that fleeting, constant substance, almost a given in the arid climate of Israel — penetrates the work of 15 different Israeli artists. Through paintings, photography, installations and video works made over the last 10 years, each artist offers a very different vision of dust as a substance or metaphor. Although not all of them make complete sense, the exhibit certainly makes viewers ponder the atmosphere — both real and metaphoric — that surrounds us.

Mika Rottenberg, Time and a Half, 2003 2 (Courtesy Israel Museum)
Mika Rottenberg, ‘Time and a Half, 2003 2’ (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Museum)

The museum’s Nathan Cummings Building for Modern and Contemporary Art is hosting “Squeeze,” a collection of six video pieces by Mika Rottenberg (through April 5), and this first solo show displays her work from the last decade. Rottenberg is known for raising questions about the role of women in society, and how society views humanity in the face of increasing commercialization. Her work isn’t necessarily Israeli in theme, but she brings a particular Sabra look at whatever she does, and it offers surprising results.

The multi-textured features and fabrics of 'Lusitana 2013' at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art)
The multi-textured features and fabrics of ‘Lusitana 2013’ at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (photo credit: Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art)

Finally, head to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art where Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos has created “Lusitana 2013,” one of her famed multi-textured installations that was created within the 27-meter-high atrium of the museum’s new wing. It’s a wonder of size, shape, color and textures, draping itself throughout a significant part of the space.

The title — “Lusitana” — is for the women who lived in the Roman province in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula and who are considered, symbolically, to be the origin of the Portuguese nation. The work is part of Vasconcelos’s series called “Valkyries,” for the female figures from Norse mythology who hovered over the battlefield. Since 2004, she has been working on this series of suspended textile works that are vaguely human in shape. Closing date, Saturday, April 26.

Finally, given the themes of Pop Art that are inherent in Vasconcelos’s works, head over to the museum’s current exhibit of Toy Paintings by Andy Warhol, created in 1983 for children, based on toys the artist had collected. Explore your inner child — or bring a child along — and paint, stamp and silk-screen to your heart’s delight. No closing date.

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