Quality is the exception in show of works from Israel

ART REVIEW

May 20, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

"Works by some of Israel's leading artists," proclaims a press release for "Art From Israel" at the Jewish Community Center. Only two conclusions can be drawn from that statement in the light of this perfectly dreadful show: Either the artists here are some of Israel's best, in which case, God help Israel; or (as I sincerely hope) they are not, in which case the statement is pure drivel.

The exhibit brings together arts and crafts by 29 people. Leaving the crafts outside the scope of this review, it is possible to say that by and large (and with very few exceptions indeed) the art runs the gamut from illustrational sentimentality to pretentious nonsense.

In this context, it would not be diplomatic to mention the artists' names. One, whose work is compared with Toulouse-Lautrec's and who "explores the idea of a 'woman painting women,' " makes her women at best decorative.

Another, a "Jerusalem painter," gives us a pale imitation of Chagall. Another has a "warm palette [that] has been influenced by 20th century European art, reminiscent of a bygone era."

A bygone era indeed; his picture of a lady being admired by gentlemen looks like a fugitive from a 1940s fashion magazine.

And so it goes, to the practitioner of "post modern expressionism" who does Matisse-y things, and the artist whose picture of people walking in the rain looks as if it might grace the cover of a somewhat tentative Gothic novel.

All too rarely, one comes upon an artist whose work looks as if it deserves a better fate than to be included here -- Avi Ben-Simhon, for instance, judging by his oil on paper, "My Number." But such is an exception.

Some shows make you sad, some make you angry. This one makes me angry, for surely it will be a major injustice to Israel if anyone gets the idea that this sort of banality is work upon which the country's art reputation rests.

The show continues through June 20 at the Jewish Community Center, 5700 Park Heights Ave. Call (410) 542-4900.

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