Confused States Spoil an Art Exhibition Designed for Kids

Shany Littman
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Detail from Orly Hummel’s 'Requiem: The Picnic,' 2010.Credit: Orly Hummel
Shany Littman

A variety of casting techniques are on display in “Hot-Cold-Liquid-Solid,” an exhibition aimed at youngsters currently showing at the Arts Center at the Haifa Museum of Art. There are sculptures by well-known artists, among them Chana Orloff, Yossl Bergner and Motti Mizrahi, done in bronze, plaster, clay, wax, polymers and other materials.

The curator, Adi Shelach, has included works representing animals, people and various objects, all of them formed from materials different from those in real life. My daughters were especially drawn to Vered Aharonovitch’s three sculptures of children. One of them is of a crying girl whose tears become diamonds as they fall into her lap; another is of a boy with a tray; and in the third, birds are sitting on a girl’s outstretched arms. The simple expressiveness of the crying girl went straight to my daughters’ hearts. They tried to figure out why she was crying and how the tears were transformed into diamonds. Then they held a beauty contest between the crying girl and the girl with the birds.

They were also impressed by a group of large cast deer situated in the center of the room, and by Tal Frank’s work, cast from fiberglass and polyurethane, of a dog whose ears and tail are covered with remnants of soft hair.

It’s a very small exhibition, confined to a single space. Visitors are not confronted with more information than they can handle, and the small scale of the show is suited to a child’s capacity for patience. That said, the show is really a little too small. It creates the feeling, not so much of a genuine exhibition, but of a collection of examples meant to serve the experience of children themselves in casting. Indeed, on Saturdays and holidays, sculpting workshops are available for children in a variety of materials, including sand, silicon, jelly and even chocolate. They can also make soap and candles. It’s a good idea to schedule a visit to coincide with a workshop.

Some of the items are on shelves that are too high for children to view. The general impression is of an eclectic collection of objects representing different types of casting techniques and materials, but without a genuine effort to make a coherent, meaningful statement in the exhibition over and above the technical aspect. The connection between the works isn’t clear, and there is no logic to their arrangement. The exhibition’s declared aim (in the words of the museum’s English-language website) is to allow children “to explore the mysteries inherent in working with materials which are transformed from liquid to solid, from a state of movement to a state of solidity” through “works [that] reflect the expressive power and the unique properties of art made using the various casting processes.” In practice, this goal appears to remain beyond the realm of children’s ability to grasp.

The idea of a play of different materials doesn’t really work, especially in regard to techniques involving fiberglass and aluminum, where even adults have a hard time imagining the details of the process. The only work that prompted the girls to ask about the transition from one material to another was Orly Hummel’s installation “Requiem: The Picnic,” consisting of a pair of legs jutting out of a wall, a large number of broken disposable plates and cups, and above them airless balloons. All the elements are made of plaster, but to understand the difference between the real items – plastic plates and cups, rubber balloons – and a sculpture made of a different material, you need to touch the items on display. That, of course, is taboo in a museum. I will say no more here about how we solved this existential dilemma.

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