The Social Network Redone, Without the Face (Or the Book

A new exhibit has contemporary artists pay homage to their predecessors to create artistic connections a la Facebook. But what works on canvas may not transfer to the screen.

It's nothing new for an artist or gallery to harness Facebook and other social media to spread the word and bring people in, but now The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has taken it a step further, by mimicking the platform for a new art exhibit. "Facelook" is intended for the whole family and features pairs of works created by representatives of two generations of artists, placed side by side for effect to create a sort of "social network" of art.

Some of the works were chosen by the curator, Sara Raiman Shor, but others are new works, which the artists created specifically to go along with a work by a veteran artist.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Exposure to art: Children at play at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.Shay Valitz

The exhibition, subtitled "Israeli Artists on a social network," also looks to engage kids, by having them search the museum's new wing to find the original works paid homage to. The exhibition is limited in nature and follows several lines of thought, but not all of them have been fully developed.

The subject of family ties works wonderfully in the drawings by Ori Reisman and his daughter, Osnat Reisman, and also in the series of works by Gideon Rubin, which were inspired by a drawing by his grandfather, the painter Reuven Rubin.

In both cases, the younger artists respond to the art of their predecessors by omitting the facial contours in their works. In so doing, they provide a wide interpretation and context for their work, which can be positioned between the private and the public.

For example, when Reisman draws her parents as faceless, she loads the drawing with intense emotion that stems from her relationship with them, and yet, because of the missing, unreadable expression, the parents can also be seen as anonymous.

The family relationships between the older and younger artists, and the subjects of the drawings selected by the relatives help make accessible to children the somewhat complex central theme. For Gideon Rubin, who draws his children and family, the works hang along almost an entire wall. You can ask the children why he does not draw faces and hear how they understand this choice and whether it bothers them.

The second type of context between the artists exhibited is that of a kind of spiritual mother or father, albeit not actually familial.

For example, there is a sculpture by Shira Zelver of a father holding his son on his shoulders who is reacting well to "Shabbat on the Kibbutz" by Yohanan Simon. Zelver's works are small and precise wax sculptures that attract the eye and are at the same time human and alienated.

The exhibition also tackles theoretical and more complex subjects. Surprising for a children's exhibition, the show does not shy away from overt political topics. Two drawings by Keren Anavi show scenes after a clash between IDF soldiers and Palestinians, presented in the context of a work by Yisrael Paldi, "Pastoral."

Nahum Gutman sends a tweet

Apart from the exhibition, there are a number of children's activities to go along with it. In one corner, kids can dress up like some of the characters in the drawings and chose a backdrop and suitable accessories for a photo (fish, the head of a goat, a bouquet of flowers and others ).

In another corner, the children are invited to sit facing each other at drawing stands, with only the face of the partner seen and to each draw their partner.

Another option is filling in their own faces on cardboard, with the face surrounded by idea bubbles that can be filled in. Those who like puzzles can arrange soft large cubes on the floor and fill in the faces of known artists (such as Reuven Rubin ).

Older children can go to computer stands featuring a kind of imaginary Facebook that is an attempt to create a sort of social network between past and living artists. The effort seems closer to Twitter than Facebook, though, as tweet-like statements issue forth from the subjects.

On Nahum Gutman's page, for example, the artist states: "Great excitement. I won the Dizengoff Art Prize." And Reuven Rubin throws up some self-promotion: "Come one, come all, to my solo exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum." Deganit Barsat responds and joins the good wishes.

The effort is well meaning, but the way it is done, there is a risk that children fluent in the art of Facebook will snicker when they see the screen.