Shai Yehezkelli's exhibition "In Praise of Avalanche" features contemporary—Israeli and Mediterranean painting which swings between the abstract and the figurative, the comic and the tragic, the political and the theological. Yehezkelli, Rappaport Prize for a Young Israeli Artist 2015 laureate, unfolds a rich set of symbols based on religious elements and signifiers of modern painting. Visual medieval Christian images and "shofar" representations hovering over al-Aksa mosque blend in the paintings, forming a backdrop for the portrait of the artist, grotesquely portrayed as weak and neurotic. By juxtaposing excerpts of Jewish prayers and Jewish motifs with Christian altars and Islamic architecture, Yehezkelli adds yet another phase in the metamorphosis of local painting, attesting to himself as an eternal wanderer.
One of the most conspicuous metamorphoses in Yehezkelli's works is that of the self-portrait. At times it appears in the figure of the Wandering Jew, with a beard and a pointed hat, tying itself to diasporic Jewish identity. Yehezkelli links the figure of the Old Jew with that of the bearded artist, the "New Jew" who is absorbed in painting or in observation; pensive and helpless or alternatively—malicious and impulsive. In other self-portraits the artist appears bald-headed with a long nose, suggestive of a smiley face.
Another key image in Yehezkelli's paintings is the pot, construed in the context of local archaeology in the shadow of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, as well as in the context of painting itself, as a receptacle assimilating diverse artistic and cultural influences. The trickle of water emerging from it is comprehended as drops of paint or an ejaculation, and is associated with painting's erotic-rationalistic union, echoing Duchamp's Fountain (1917), which is both a spring and a fountain, both nature and culture.
In the past two years Yehezkelli has been painting swift etudes on flawed earthenware, indicating failure as a new point of departure for contemporary painting. One of the ceramic pieces bears a pair of palm trees with the inscription "local symbolism pros and cons" between them, a humorous allusion to the question of affiliation formulated by Yehezkelli's perplexed painting.
Mizne-Blumental Gallery, Marc Rich and Gabrielle Rich Wing, Tel Aviv Museum of Art Main Building
Curator: Anat Danon Sivan