I have never seen such long lines at the Art Museum in Tel Aviv. When about a decades ago the second intifada broke and led to sky-rocketing insurance prices, which added to political reasons resulted in the Israeli Museums to be pushed at the periphery or simply taken out of the international circuit of art shows, the museum in Tel Aviv wisely decided to focus on Israeli art. The result is that many major shows of Israeli artists were organized in this decade and the success of this last exhibition which was more the result of the public reaction than of art critics feedback or an orchestrated PR campaign demonstrates that the art loving audiences in Israel react to what they perceive as fit to their tastes and can eventually sustain the public part of the museum activity.

Zadok Ben-David explaining his works to guests in the exhibition

Zadok Ben-David was born in Yemen in 1949 and his parents immigrated and brought him to Israel in the same year. He studied Fine Arts at Bezalel in Jerusalem, at the Reading University, and at the Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London. He lives in the UK for many years.

Out of the Wood

His style seems to be a continuous dialog between form and material, between human silhouettes and vegetation forms. The material that he uses for the bigger works is iron (cut with laser for the bigger dimensions works), but you need to get closer to realize the weight and mass, as the impression created by contemplation is of a delicate two dimensional philigrams, reminding more the Indonesian shades theater characters and sets than traditional European sculpture.  If sculpture is traditionally conceived as being about filling the space with forms, the style and techniques that Ben-David developed seem to challenge the tri-dimensional view of objects in search of volatility, of lack of weight and volume.  One can say that the real material of Ben-David’s recent works is shadow.

(video by joshasen)

The power piece of the current show is an installation that catches a 150 square meters room (my estimation) – a bed of sand where thousands of miniature plants, trees, flowers that represents a different world created by the artist.There are no two identical pieces of vegetation in this huge garden, and Ben-David is said to have built each piece as a realistic representation of real-life vegetation.

The dimensions and shape of the work create an interesting relation between the viewer and the art objects. We are used to be dwarfed by some sculptures, relate as equal to other, or bend to watch with attention an individual miniature. Here, when you enter the room the field is at your feet and the first sensation is of bird view. Seen from the entry the field is black. Then, when you start walking around colors and perspective change likw you walk in time through the seasons cycle. In order to see the details you need to lie and watch close to the sand field, as you do when in the mid of nature you lie on grass and watch wild life.

Are you Talking to me?

The dialog between man and nature seems to be the principal focus of Zadok Ben-David’s exhibition nowadays. The idea of planting flowers and other plants as art in the sand may also be read as a paraphrase of the myth of making the desert blossom. Non-confirmed rumors heard from people in the line say that the exhibition is the first that will take Ben-David’s works to many other places in the world in the coming years. To all friends who will have the opportunity to see his art in a museum close to their place I recommend not to miss it.

The artist’s web site can be accessed at http://www.zadokbendavid.com/.

The Web site of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art can be accessed at http://www.tamuseum.com/