Museum visit

Four new Israel Museum exhibits contemplate disparate elements of life

Exhibitions range from architecture and art collecting, to bodyscapes and the questions of belonging and home

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

Four new exhibits at the Israel Museum offer an opportunity to dive into different elements of life, all housed within one wing of the Jerusalem museum.

The exhibits lead with “Shutters and Stairs: Elements of Modern Architecture in Contemporary Art,” where curator Aya Miron looked at different parts of floors, doors, window shutters and stairs, which are featured in this architectural display (through October 11, 2020).

A video features the fluorescent strips that light up a bomb shelter, while two simple window handles are fastened to the wall, followed by a wall of shutters to keep out Israel’s harsh sunlight and a 3D model of an apartment stairwell.

The repeated question that ties all these familiar architectural elements is what can they tell viewers about what lies behind them.

Tsibi Geva’s wall of shutters, part of the ‘Shutters and Stairs’ exhibit at the Israel Museum through October 2020 (Courtesy Alexandra Tzimolo)

Another gallery off to the side of “Shutters and Stairs” is dedicated to the second exhibit, “Bertha Urdang: A Gallery of Her Own,” curated by Ronit Sorek. It features seminal works from gallery owner Urdang’s collection that were donated to the museum and from private and museum collections where she was involved.

The English-born gallery owner died in 2001 and was known for significantly influencing the path of Israeli art, as well as introducing the art of Moshe Kupferman, Alima Rita, Hagit Lalo and others to the New York scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

Joshua Neustein painting from ‘Bertha Urdang: A Gallery of Her Own’ at Israel Museum through October 2020 (Courtesy Israel Museum)

The third exhibit, “Bodyscapes,” curated by Adina Kamien-Kazhdan (through October 11, 2020), looks at the ways in which the body and brain work together, and the relationship between nature and culture through the prism of the body.

The artworks are varied, ranging from a gripping oil painting by Jenny Saville, depicting her own naked body as a fleshy and textured map, a torso comprised of binder clips, elastics and a dustpan by Naama Arad, and Wangechi Mutu’s grouping of collaged masks.

Jenny Saville’s oil painting of her own mapped body (Courtesy Israel Museum)

Don’t miss the end of the exhibit, about artists making art with their bodies, including Spencer Tunick’s “Krystal 1” from 1999, offering a photograph of a mass of naked people curled together, or feathery black brushstrokes created with Covergirl mascara.

Finally, “Raida Adon: Strangeness” (through October 2020) is a debut of the Palestinian and Israeli actress from Acre, whose family has Muslim, Christian and Jewish roots, and offers a fantastical video that looks at the themes of wandering, rootlessness and the desire to belong, all part of her own history and background, as she notes in the written introduction to the exhibit.

The 33-minute work includes her own sketches and installations prepared for the video, including a dollhouse-sized room created in a suitcase, part of the set Adon used for the film that was commissioned by the museum and curator Amitai Mendelsohn.

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