Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art reopens to the public
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Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art reopens to the public
Installation view of Penny Hes-Yassour: Space and its Double – Observations. Photo: Lena Gomon.

HERZLIYA.- After being closed to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art will reopen!

Visiting will comply with the “purple badge” safety guidelines: no more than ninety visitors at a time, wearing face-masks, social distancing (two meters), signing a health declaration, and temperature-taking. Groups will be limited to fifteen participants, by arrangement only.

The Third Dream
The title The Third Dream – which encompasses an ensemble of seven solo exhibitions – is taken from the title of a painting by Pesach Slabosky, which is on display in the Museum’s entrance lobby. At the center of the painting, the artist had written in printed letters (in Hebrew), “This is the third dream I remember,” in keeping with his custom of incorporating into his works snippets of sentences that he had randomly picked up in his surroundings. Reality imperceptibly invades the innermost planes of the artist’s consciousness, springing from them back into the work and into the museum’s spaces. Thus, The Third Dream exhibitions invite viewers into a dimension where reality is a dream that becomes a nightmare – and through it, the artistic work reflects the reality of our lives.

In each of the various exhibitions, everyday events and objects are associated with the memories and traumas of the artist’s biographical past. Moments of existential darkness, hybrid images intriguing in their seductive strangeness and visions of horror appear alongside poignant attempts to escape and cushion the blow, or the fall, of awakening. Dina Shenhav’s Tunnel, which is visible to all in the middle of the space and is made of a soft material, is a priori devoid of protective functions, and its material properties evoke not only an ability to insulate and seal and an intimate memory of a bed mattress, but also recalls the survival of the artist’s father in WWII; nightmarish creatures seek relief in the work of Holocaust survivor artist Osias Hofstätter; Dganit Ben Admon’s installation projects a fraught situation in which interior and exterior, and past and present, are in imminent danger of collapsing after a future earthquake – and seeks to mitigate it; Avi Sabah’s paintings pit the mundane against injustices, horrors, and nightmares from the time when did guard duty during military service – in a state between vigilance and fatigue, between dreaming and waking; Michael Liani’s exhibition presents an escape to the ultimate vacation in Eilat – so familiar to him from his youth – as moments of spectacular abundance, but also of a touching nightmare, in which escapism is an impossible escape option; and Penny Hes-Yassour’s work is based on observations by laboratory researchers on the navigation of bats in the dark, thereby offering an experience of a mental map embedded in the body’s memory and senses, a non-hierarchical map based on personal experience and beliefs, in which fears set boundaries, and impulses draw nooks and crannies.

The exhibitions conjure up the famous aquatint by Francisco Goya (1746–1828), El sueño de la razón produce monstruos (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters) (Fig. 2), from the series Los Caprichos (1799), in which the artist is depicted sleeping, slumped over his work-table, and surrounding him and above him are terrifying nocturnal creatures, owls and bats. Thus the work of art is presented as a fraught space, oscillating between fantasy, nightmare, and angst, anchored in reality yet diverging from it. Interpretations of the image often refer to it as an expression of the artist’s tragedy-ridden biography, but focuses on its reading as a sharp social, cultural, and political critique of the failure of Enlightenment and reason in the face of the evils of the period. The grotesque creative realm that Goya depicted, like the critique he expressed back then, in late eighteenth-century Spain, seems more relevant than ever.

Pesach Slabosky: Overtly and Covertly
Curator: Yona Fischer

The works of Pesach Slabosky (1947–2019) – curated as a friendly tribute to his memory by Yona Fischer – are on display on the concrete wall in the Museum’s entrance lobby. Slabosky used to construct his works from objects he found around him – bits of furniture, planks of wood, parts of household objects – on which he stretched canvases and clothes fabrics, and added thick, padding layers of paint. In addition, he incorporated in his paintings snippets of sentences that he overheard at random or plucked from his memory or from newspaper clippings. The irregular geometry of the surface and the multiple layers create a volumetric shape that serves as an alternative to the traditional logic of a painting created upon a white rectangle.

Dganit Ben Admon: Up to Here
Curators: Aya Lurie, Lilach Ovadia
Text by Aya Lurie

The exhibitןםמ Up to Here by Dganit Ben Admon (b. 1979) is a sculptural installation that engages with the threat of an earthquake that will occur in our region. Through her preoccupation with the TAMA-38 National Masterplan, which resulted in the construction that has engulfed her residential neighborhood, she conjures up the trauma her family experienced following an earthquake that hit Morocco in 1960. The mattress protector sheets that pad the walls of the space seem to strive, in vain, to protect against an existential threat, where exterior and interior, past and present, are in imminent danger of collapse following a future earthquake.

Penny Hes-Yassour: Space and its Double – Observations
Curator: Aya Lurie
Text by Sigal Barnir

Penny Hes-Yassour’s exhibit was inspired by observations made by laboratory researchers of bats’ navigation in the dark. The artist learned about these while serving as the Artist in Residence at the Weizmann Institute of Science, at the invitation of the Hebrew University. The maze-like installation comprises a system of mental maps that reflect a subjective perception of space. A mental map is a non-hierarchical map based on personal experience and beliefs, in which fears set boundaries, and impulses draw nooks and crannies. Unlike other maps, which seek to present an “objective chart,” for which they unify diverse stories and spaces and expunge all traces of personal experience, the mental map is etched in the body’s memory and senses, following states of futility or breakthroughs, and constantly changes. Yassour’s installation was presented last summer (May–July 2019), in a broader version, in a solo exhibition of her work at the Recklinghausen Museum in Germany.

Osias Hofstätter: Painting-Creature
Curator: Tali Ben-Nun

Osias Hofstätter (1905–1995) repeatedly revisited the horrors of World War II in his depictions of hybrid, haunted figures. From his paper-based works in the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection, Curator Tali Ben-Nun has selected those depicting nightmarish creatures dejectedly trying to shield each other as they seek relief from blackness.

The curator has noted a spirit common to the paintings by Hofstätter and those created by the late Pesach Slabosky and Avi Sabah, whose exhibitions are also currently on view at the Museum (these three are the only painting shows in the current group of exhibitions). As she explains, “The stretched-skin support that features in the works of all three appears to convey a similar theme, encompassing at once the physical deformation of the painting support, the painting body, and the painted body.”

Michael Liani: All Inclusive
Curator: Meital Aviram

Michael Liani (b. 1987) devotes his exhibit to the ultimate resort city of Eilat, examining it through a mixture of sober contemplation and nostalgia, as something that is at once a reality and an unfulfilled wish. To this end, he draws on his personal and family experiences during vacations in the town over the years. He returns to the town in the company of his partner, Maya (Roo) Robovitch, rediscovering the experience of the place from a new perspective. Curator Meital Aviram describes the video work Eilat Mami, which is at the heart of the exhibition, as “the story of a holiday in Eilat, whose segments are produced in various techniques of photography and editing – ranging from docu/mockumentary to psychomagical fantasy of colors, lights, parties, sound, and eccentric characters.” Eilat Mami won the NEXT award at the 2019 Docaviv Festival.

In addition, the exhibition presents, in a 3-D projection, an image of a major amusement-park facility on the Eilat boardwalk – the Fireball – in which the occupants are flung in a large ball to a great height. Screams of fear and pleasure accompany the sight of the flickering lights against the black sky. The ultimate vacation is depicted as moments of a poignant nightmare, and escapism is presented as an impossible escape option.

Avi Sabah: Face Down
Curator: Tali Ben-Nun

Avi Sabah (b. 1977) presents a corpus of about 80 paintings, which the curator of his exhibition, Tali Ben-Nun, describes as comprised of “everything that the artist experiences: a violent moment that he witnessed in the street, a song that he heard, a book that he read, the tangible flash of a dream.” In his paintings, she sees “a grotesque lynching of writhing organs, monumental winged, hybrid human-beastly objects that enfold miniature incidents or landscapes.” Sabah pits the mundane against injustices, atrocities, or nightmares. Everything is suspended between vigilance and fatigue, between dreaming and waking – a mental state that reminds him of guard duty during military service, in sensitive locations that required him to remain highly vigilant, or, in stark contrast, flashes of memory of sleep-deprived nights with his children when they were babies or toddlers, forcing his eyes to remain open so as not to fall asleep, and sketching in the dark.

Dina Shenhav: Tunnel
Curator: Aya Lurie

At the center of the exhibition by Dina Shenhav (b. 1968), in the Museum’s large gallery, is a monumental sculptural installation of a tunnel – possibly an escape tunnel, possibly an attack route – made of soft sponge, in reference to attempts of hostile infiltration into the country through its southern or northern borders. This topical existential threat echoes the story of her father’s survival during World War II. The material properties of the sponge evoke an intimate memory of our body lying on the bed’s mattress at night, as the body and mind seeks relief from the trials and tribulations of the day, and evoke its ability (or inability, as the case may be) to isolate, seal off, and mute disturbing and alarming sounds.

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