Imagine what happens if you combine five artists from Netanya, Israel, five artists from Cincinnati, Ohio, a fanciful algorithm and a common theme exploring The Many Faces of Israel?
With many little leaps of faith, this collaboration made possible by internet partnerships, results in an extraordinary exhibition of 70 works of art celebrating 70 years of Israeli independence.
The Cincinnati artists and the Netanya artists who have never met do have a commonality in their understanding of Israel’s struggle for national independence and in their love of photography. Several artists use photoshop editing programs to format their expressive stylings. The mathematical equation is this:
Each artist creates one original piece = 10
Each Netanya artist “re-arts” each Cincinnati artist’s work = 25
Each Cincinnati artist “re-arts” each Netanya artist’s work = 25
Each Cincinnati artist “re-arts” one other Cincinnati artist’s work = 5
Each Netanya artist “re-arts” one other Netanya artist’s work = 5
Within this collaborative process, another artist reinterprets, re-visions, manipulates or challenges the original submitted photography.The scenes depicted, largely not notably landmarked, are culled from the regional elements of Midwest America and sites in Israel.
Israeli artist Rodrigo Uriartt submitted his photo of a unique bridge in Jerusalem designed to represent King David’s Harp. The unique arching design features tensioned stringing of cables that stabilize the structure and is shot against a dramatic sky. American artist Sam Stamler’s revision response assigns planes to the cable positions projecting a pyramid-like geometry while American Gary Kessler reinterprets the structure in a 4 quarter kaleidoscopic design. Israeli Smadar Barnea reduces the imagery to a general gesture suggestion by discarding all elements specific to the moment in time and space.
Another series that intrigued this writer is based on the original photograph by Tami Suez. This family based, female Israeli artist loves to take walks down the beach and document what she encounters on the way. Her submission was taken in the Dead Sea within the framework of the subject “fading continents”. It features an island-like mainland and a much smaller satellite shape in the shallow waters of the Dead Sea.
Israeli Rodrigo Uriartt amplifies the composition with startling reds, blues and gestural elements.
Sam Stamler translates the island and its reflection as a perfect circle accompanied by a small triangular satellite. He also reduces the shallow scrim of water over the sand to a nuanced purple grey that complements the eggy yellow of the geometric shapes.
American Alan Brown photoshops the original picture plane into an extreme horizontal position which seems to levitate over the water. A serene mountainous mirage enhances the surrealistic effect in deep space. There are 3 additional pieces in the series.
Consider the Smadar Barnea series which is based on the most forthright image of irrigated Israeli farmland. Sam Stamler and Yehuda Yahav distort the yellow and red row pattern with photoshop wizardry to create their statements while American Gary Kessler manipulates the pattern into a dozen hay bales that are stacked to dominate the picture plane. Fellow American Alan Brown relegates the image to a billboard with twin tornadic funnels. A two story home balances the right side of the picture which depicts an endless expanse of American farmland perhaps in Kansas where tornadic activity is the context of American fable.
The contrasts of these works noted here illustrate the engaging dialogue which is a result of this unique format. The re-examinations have evolved over a period of time, sometimes years, and combine emotional, aesthetic and photographic experiences. The artists are involved with a living tradition and have created statements that demonstrate personal understanding and connection to the state of Israel from seemingly common diurnal experiences.
This exhibition succeeds in continuing the conversation with the living past with a message for the present and the future.
Participating artists are: Israeli group: Smadar Barnea, Philip Golan, Tami Suez, Yehuda Yahav, Rodrigo Uriartt. American group: Deborah Brod, Alan Brown, Cindy Loon, Gary Kessler, Sam Stamler
Exhibition on view through January 7, 2018.
Mayerson Hall at Hebrew Union College
Skirball Museum Cincinnati