Questions for My Father
Nov 12 – Dec 10, 2016
Naama Arad, Yael Bartana, Guy Ben-Ner, Karl Haendel, Eran Nave, Michal Na’aman, Moshe Kupferman
The exhibition’s title is taken from a work by Karl Haendel, created in 2010. The drawing, like other works by Haendel, is the product of extensive labor aesthetically resembling contemporary magazines. The work presents a list of questions, provocatively resisting what one would expect from a father and son dialogue, including: “Did you even wonder if you were gay?”, “Did you ever had anal sex with mom?”, and more. Haendel’s ongoing practice includes large-scale installations, pushing forward images and texts in an attack meant to simulate tactics used by mass media. This makes “Questions for my Father” seem like an unusually personal work, and yet – the inherent undermining of values associated with the father figure found in these questions leads to a wider perspective on things. Art carries a long and extensive history of preoccupation with the father figure; such that makes the subject feel like a worn-out cliché. Still, Handel’s approach offers a new path of exploration, presenting the father figure as an initial base for further social examination.
Michal Na’aman’s works share Haendel’s focus on text, yet Na’aman’s approach to words is much more abstract and poetic, using dense expressions to convey an ample field of associations. This comes across, among others, in the work “Itzhak! Itzhak!” which references three “fathers” – the biblical Itzhak, Itzhak Rabin and artist Moshe Gershuni, who created a work under the same title in 1982. All three figures resonate a certain sense of trauma and crisis. Other works by Na’aman continue to refer to fathers and sons, such as Jesus Christ (“Walking on Water”) and a poem by Swedish poet Göran Sonnevi, titled “A Child is not a Knife”. Also in the exhibition are works by Yael Bartana, who uses the father figure to dispute mythical qualities associated with it, while examining the current function of an iconic “father” image. In a series of masqueraded self-portraits, Bartana embodies the image of Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl. Like Cindy Sherman, who uses disguise to regularly re-present historical characters in photography, Bartana “channels” Herzl’s image accurately, while also creating a strange and even laughable rendition of it. Bartana is preoccupied with issues of memory, history and performance, and especially the Zionist Movement. This series focuses on the lengths a political narrative can go, basing itself on the image of one man. Other works in the exhibition relate to a father-child relationship that is internal to the Israeli art world. The “pure” artistic values associated with paintings by Moshe Kupferman are the trademark of an entire generation of influential artists (mostly men), working in Israel during the second half of the 20th century. The artist’s modernistic approach is no longer the trait of artists today, yet his image has been cemented as a local “old master”.
Alongside Kupferman’s paintings are works by agents of the young generation of the contemporary scene, Naama Arad and Eran Nave. Both artists deal with issues of materiality, humor and camp, while demonstrating a clear preference towards mundane materials and frail subject matters, opposing universal aspirations characteristic of works by Kupferman. Joining these is a video by Guy Ben Ner, “I’d Give It to You if I Could but I Borrowed it”, which revolves around tradition and appropriation. Ben Ner often employs artistic and cultural references in a parodical manner, and in this work presents a narrative in which he and his two young children build a bicycle out of famous ready-made artworks. Ben Ner’s work shows an ironic approach towards artistic father figures (it features, among others, Duchamp’s wheel and Picasso’s “bull” saddle), bringing ready-mades back to their original functions while taking them out of their museum aura-filled context.