Star-spotting Curator Finds Talent for Her Last Israeli Art Show

Found materials, magical worlds, myths, rituals and social protest combine at Herzliya art museum.

A man dances in a dark room. Arrayed on one side is a panoply of projectors, hurling shafts of light. On the other side, the man’s dancing figure is projected, while all around, people are photographing him from every possible angle with iPhones, the flashes like pale torches. And in the center: the viewer. This hypnotic video installation by Tzion Abraham Hazan addresses themes of singularity and loneliness in a world of omnipresent photography. It is one of 37 works in a group exhibition titled “Rising Star,” currently on show at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art. All the participants are young Israeli artists, some of them brand-new art school graduates.

“You could say I am a curator-mother, all-enveloping, because I too have children the same age as the artists I am showing, 30-plus, and I am delighted at their success,” Dalia Levin, the director and chief curator of the Herzliya Museum said in an interview a few months ago, ahead of her retirement from the institution. “That is where our strength lies: in singling out unknown artists and giving them exposure.”

That is precisely what she does in the last exhibition under her direction (with co-curators Ghila Limon and Tal Bechler), while also setting out to discover stars. It’s an eclectic show, but nevertheless the curators have articulated four principles that characterize young Israeli art, as the museum’s website notes. These are: “the use of found, industrial and low-cost materials to create a rich, enchanting and tantalizing world; a fascination with myths and rituals, but also with the marginal, different and Other; statements of subtle and subversive sociopolitical protest; and sophisticated applications of state-of-the-art technologies that expand the museum’s boundaries to incorporate the virtual world.”

Vestitectura by Elian (Lula) Kaczka

Indeed, most of the works in the exhibition reflect these themes. Thus, “Vestitectura,” by Elian Lula Kaczka, consists of three hybrid cardboard structures, meticulously assembled, which are models for richly ornamented architectural works. Also on view is Amir Yatziv’s video art work, “Superstition in the Pigeon.” This flyover of Jerusalem, created by attaching a small camera to a pigeon, fuses an ancient technology with sophisticated new methods, gently mocking the unification and eternality of the city, to which the pigeon returns after 2,000 years of exile.

There are also amusing works. “Dress Rehearsal,” for example, by Ori Levin, consists of seven short films about a film set being organized for a scene in which a mother is murdered, but the clips are run in reverse. The mother, who is murdered in a different way each time, is shown being directed over and over as she gets ready for death. In other words, she returns to life time and again like a zombie in a horror movie, even though her daughter directed the perfect crime, produced a superbly planned murder scene, synthesized emotional scenes of parting in a range of cinematic styles and got rid of the smoking gun.

The abundance of materials and techniques, the dominance of handicrafts, the hyper-creative atmosphere rich with costumes, sets and simulations of spaces, atmospheres and structures elucidate another trait of the young artists’ work: Their focus of interest is aesthetic and sensuous, yet suffused with delicacy.