TEL AVIV.- In the mid-1970s, when Michel Haddad wrote: "The world is dazzled by/for its image" (Le monde s'aveugle par/pour son image) in the body of the drawing hanging at the entrance to the exhibition, art was at the more radical stage of its liberation from reference to the visible. Unfolding a wide spectrum of real landscapes and mimetic representations of the visible, the drawings featured in the exhibition are far-removed from the conceptual trend; the insight that showing the world (as well as the impact of that showing) involves blindness, however, is reinforced in works aimed at a desirable appearance of a chosen reality. The selection of drawings from the collection presented here strives to draw attention to the choices made in response to the question, what should be observed and what should be seen, namely: what reality was deemed by each of the artists worthy of representation, what kind of appearance they gave it in their work, and on what conventions or norms they relied in their choices; because every attempt to show something reflects a choice-acceptance of a given position, and with itthe blindness entailed in conceding or refusing all the other options.
Unlike paintings, drawingsin their very essence and by virtue of the medium's relative marginality in the traditional hierarchy of artcontain a certain modesty. This modesty is also associated with the perception of drawing (as early as the 14th century) as a direct projection of an idea and an authentic expression of its author tantamount to a "signature," which makes it less committed than painting, for example, to representation of "The Visible" as such, to the appearance of things for contemporaneous eyes. Nevertheless, even as a direct expression, as an articulation of the passing moment or as intimate observation of a specific aspect of the visual experience, drawings have always followed the conventions of their time.
The selection showcased here is not restricted to a given historical period, and the display does not follow historical developments chronologically. Still, these drawingsthe earliest of which dates to the 17th century, and the majority of them to the 19th and early 20th centuries, with a few works from recent years interspersed in betweenecho the chronicles of the time, the era of modernity, which was rife with profound social changes as well as political and cultural transformations. In generalizing hindsight, the selection is mainly tied with the early manifestations of modernism and the changes that generated it, changes pertaining, primarily, to the attempt to deviate from prevalent norms and "eternal truths" identified with the ruling class. Even the harbingers and pioneers of modernism, howeverwhen they undermined the unity of the speaking voice and introduced a split in the experience and grasp of reality, making the voice of people grouped around a shared interest hearddid not entirely abandon the "eternal truth" of the classical heritage, the one which anchored art in affinity with the beautiful and pleasing.
Hence, "beautiful drawings." But how shall we define the beautiful? Does it refer to the depicted beauty or the beauty of the depiction? The beauty in the eye of the beholder or the quality of the observed object? Alongside these questions, the age-old symbiosis linking the issue of the beautiful with that of truth is always invoked, where the latter refers, either to the objective signified or to the speaking subject and art's truth, materials, and techniques. The variegated selection offers options too numerous to pick a single answer. Multiplicitythe different responses to the traditional categories of artattests to a "moment" in the nascent phases of modernism in which the perception of the beautiful as objective truth and as an object of universal pleasure had just begun to crack. The inevitable dissociationnegation of the affinity between art and the beautifuloccurred later, and with it also the rejection of art's comforting-pleasing role.
Notwithstanding, the later among the featured drawings (those belonging to the present) indicate that the engagement with the "beautiful"which has long been pushed to the realms of popular culture, only to return in a different, flattened and value-free formhas not become redundified even in contemporary practice, nor is it akin to excess. Its expressionoften "uncanny"came to contain the quality of plurality, and thus it may be presented or avoided in countless forms.