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Contemporary paper artworks form focus of Herzliya museum exhibits

Four exhibits, three solo and one group, come together for winter show that’s ‘contemporary but with historical aspects’

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

Rotem Amizur's 'The Flatland,' a series of large-scale, paper-based collages at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art through May 20, 2023. (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Rotem Amizur's 'The Flatland,' a series of large-scale, paper-based collages at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art through May 20, 2023. (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Paper is perhaps the most common element linking all four exhibits in the winter exhibition at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art.

The exhibits begin with massive paper collages by Rotem Amizur at the museum’s entrance, then move on to Aviva Uri’s drawings on paper, Ivan Schwebel’s colorful journals (and oil paintings), and “On Point,” a group exhibition of prints on paper, exploring the history of moving images.

It’s a bit of a mishmash, but it works.

“They’re all contemporary but with historical aspects,” said head curator Aya Lurie.

The winter exhibition opened January 14 and closes May 20 at the Herzliya museum. This time around, Lurie invited curators who are also artists or collectors.

Amizur, a young artist celebrating her first solo exhibit at a museum, was curated by fellow artist Iddo Markus. The two have been working for the past decade as part of a collective of artists in Haifa. Amizur created “The Flatland,” a series of large-scale, paper-based collages with a quilted feel, inspired by a chance glance at a book reproduction of a large mural by Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna.

Undated portrait of David Hendler (left), Aviva Uri and Joshua Neustein. (Courtesy: Gabriel Talphir Archive, Information Center for Israeli Art, Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

Just past Amizur’s works is the entrance to the museum gallery showing “La Forza Del Destino,” an exhibit of Aviva Uri’s works curated by collector Benno Kalev, based on the collection he has amassed over decades of modern Israeli artists.

There are two dialogues apparent in the Aviva Uri exhibit — between collector and artist as the two grew close over their years of collaboration, and between Uri and artist David Hendler, Uri’s former teacher who later became her beloved partner.

“Benno had dozens of works by Uri,” said Lurie, adding that Benno found it difficult to choose which works to include in the exhibit, which also contains pieces from his collection of love notes and sketches written by Hendler for Uri.

Uri was well-known during her lifetime, particularly as an artist’s artist. Hendler’s star didn’t shine as brightly, said Lurie, but the two artists shared a deep love and life together.

The main group exhibit at the museum is called “On Point,” referring to the point of a pencil. It’s curated by artist Ben Hagari, who explores the history of moving images through his own works as well as those of independent artists and others whose works are part of the collection at the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, where Hagari previously taught.

The exhibit ‘On Point,’ curated by artist Ben Hagari, who explores the history of moving images at the group exhibit at the Herzliya Contemporary Museum of Art, through May 20, 2023. (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

With participating artists such as Jasper Johns, William Kentridge, Aki Sasamoto and Terry Winters among a total of 25 artists, Hagari, an Israeli artist who taught at Columbia while earning a master’s degree and is now teaching at Yale, explores the history of moving images before the invention of the camera.

He includes etchings, early optical devices, movable books, peepholes, shadows and silhouettes, films, early experiments with animation and video works that explore the drawings of human hands, the development of live action and animation, including an early animated work by an Edison Labs staffer.

From the exhibit ‘On Point,’ curated by artist Ben Hagari, who explores the history of moving images at the group exhibit at the Herzliya Contemporary Museum of Art, through May 20, 2023. (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

“The show highlights the interaction between moving images and paper,” said Hagari. “It’s how the imagination takes the line and creates something from that.”

The fourth exhibit is “FSP Free-Standing Painting,” with dozens of paintings, drawings, engravings and work journals by US-born Ivan Schwebel.

The connection to the rest of the exhibits is through the impressive paper journals Schwebel kept, colorful and full of his sketches and artistry, as well as his scribbled notes.

There’s also a cinematic aspect to Schwebel’s artworks, which highlight his very American childhood and the culture of Hollywood, comics and superheroes that he grew up with.

Artist Ivan Schwebel, whose works are currently being exhibited in the Herzliya Contemporary Museum of Art, was a proponent of public art, and his work is on permanent display at Tel Aviv’s Heichal Hatarbut. (Courtesy Talmoryair/Wikipedia)

Schwebel was born in West Virginia, moved to the Bronx as a child, joined the US Army and served in Japan during the Korean War. He studied art history at New York University, traveled some more and eventually settled in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood in 1963, home to fellow artists and poets, where he married an Israeli and settled down.

Schwebel may have lived in Israel for most of his adult life, but he always blended American, Jewish and Hollywood imagery in his works. At first, he was accepted into the Israeli art world, but was gradually left out, given his focus on Jewish and Holocaust imagery while Israeli artists of his generation were “more into abstraction and minimalism and he was into art history and Jewish history and biblical figures,” said Lurie.

The four exhibits offer a chance to take a deeper glance into the art and psyche of the participating artists and curators, and provide an overview of Israeli contemporary art while creating a clever connection of materials and ideas.

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