We filled our last day in Haifa with art. First we went to the Haifa Museum of Art to see “Dangerous Art,” a profound, powerful, painful, and provocative exhibit (with several sub-exhibits) representing the struggles of oppressed populations and addressing issues including those of sexuality, poverty, race, and displacement, including the current African refugee situation — the room of work that was most painful for me to witness. (By the way, last night’s rally in Tel Aviv in support of the African refugees was 20,000 strong and got good press.)
I learned a new term, “artivism,” referring to the intersection of art and social activism.
Note: It will be impossible to do justice to this vast collection of work with a handful of photos, so let me know if you are interested in more, and maybe I’ll put together a slideshow or something. The section on refugees was vast and particularly evocative and challenging.
Highlights of this panel: “I can’t breathe,” a reference to Eric Garner’s death in NYC (Chaim and I attended a big demonstration about that act of police brutality in 2014) and Women’s March with pussy hats (I had my very own to wear at this year’s march.)
One part of the exhibit was devoted to masks and headgear — police in riot gear or protestors hiding their identities by wearing masks. These paper masks were for the taking — just in time for Purim.
This art is by Dede, one of the street artists we’d seen on our street art tour in Tel Aviv three days ago. His giant birds, yearning to fly, are drawn symbolically with wood scraps and found objects, representing the transient shelters that homeless people constructed in Tel Aviv from furniture scraps. Bringing Dede off the street and into the museum the curator explained was “an act of protest against the art world’s conservative attitude toward the urban neighborhood.”
Women from the Kuchinate Collective — Eritrean asylum seekers and rape survivors living in Tel Aviv — earn a living by making traditional crafts like these bean bags. They are pictured on the back wall with their corresponding creations.
“First Day in Israel” from the series “Darfur/Maror,” 2009, color print by Asaf Kliger
“We Refugees,” the title of this section of work, “challenges the demographic self-perception of Israel as the Jewish state” by contributing “to a pluralistic view of the Israeli population as a diverse, multicultural society.” The contemporary pieces were paired with older pieces of art depicting refugees, including one by one of my favorite artists, Samuel Bak.
Samuel Bak, “Journey, ca. Second half of the 20th century”
“Lampedusa” — artist Vik Muniz himself came to the US in 1982 as an undocumented immigrant from Brazil. The image of a paper boat is playful and optimistic, but in this case, the floating installation highlighted the deaths of 360 immigrants who died during their journey from Libya to Italy. The 14-meter-long boat was coated with a giant reproduction of the Italian newspaper that reported the tragedy. This is a photo of the installation (Venice).
Benjamin Reich (originally from Bnei Brak!), “Tefillin shel Yad,” photo. There was a whole room devoted to portrayals of gay sexuality.
Untitled painting by Ethiopian painter Nirit Takele depicts the beating of an Ethiopian Jewish man, most likely the 2015 event that led to a huge protest against racism and police brutality.
As if that weren’t enough art for one day, Chaim and I then (after lunch) went to the studio/gallery of Tamar Messer, a friend of our dear artist friends Nancy Katz and Mark Liebowitz. What a repertoire of media Tamar works in! From mixed media creations and furniture to painting to illustrated biblical books, originally done in silkscreen, to gorgeous b’nai mitzvah invitations tailored to the specific Torah portion. I couldn’t resist and bought a set of her beautifully illustrated megillot, each one uniquely reflective of the book it represents (Esther, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes).
Tamar with Chaim in her gallery
Sample bar/bat mitzvah invitation representing Parashat Vayetze and Jacob’s dream.
This is Tamar’s breath-taking depiction of Akedat Yitzchak (the binding of Isaac), in which his body IS the wood.
Have a seat! (These are chairs.)
Now it is time to pack as we have to be up by 4 AM to get to the airport. I imagine I will have one or two more posts when I get back to the US, to tie up some loose ends and add some more photos!