Bauer & Ewald art space, Berlin 

Lior Wilentzik

Sahar Zukerman 
Alina Shmukler 
Alma Alloro 
Dorit Bialer
Benyamin Reich
Lior Wilentzik
Shira Wachsmann

Gabriel S Moses

Die Asporas - young Israeli artists in Berlin

Bauer & Ewald  15-24.6.12

Text - Gabriel S. Moses

The opening show of the Die Asporas project focuses on seven artists. All of which have been residing in Berlin for the past years, all of which had grown up in Israel, acquiring their higher education in one of the state’s art institutes, some also carrying out their further studies here in Germany.

The architectural richness of Berlin, its acknowledgment of the value of historical preservation and the vast spacious greenery embedded within city life, are, to name a few, primary noticeable distinctions from the urban Israeli environment (namely Tel Aviv). Those who have chosen to immigrate to the German capital, now both enjoy the city’s fulfilling supply of many needs which were never accounted for in Israel, though at the same time, they are also conflicted with an unfamiliar encoded living space which demands tackling and contemplation anew.  Many of these cultural differences are discovered within local and national signs and symbols. Those are alien to the newcomer’s eye and evoke the desire to critically study them and deconstruct. Furthermore, with regard to the shows particular emphasis on the Israeli immigrant’s perspective, one can only assume that the strong historical ties between the Israeli and German people only contribute to this desire, ever deepening and layering the foundation of the Israeli artist’s unique prismatic viewpoint.

Sahar Zukerman began assembling his practice of painting at the Jerusalem Studio School, whose emphasis is put on tradition European naturalistic oil painting. Proceeding, Zukerman is currently concluding further studies at the UDK. He now uses his obtained painterly tools in order to formulate old/new phantasmagoria - works combining contemporary realism with morbid figurativism, borrowed from Christian mythology. The main protagonist of Zukerman’s fairytale-like scenes is the knight, in his various reincarnations - the emblematic maintainer of the peace, salvaging us from the clutching mystic savagery of nature. Fitting to our time and place, he is transformed into the figure of the policeman, in his canonic uniform. The growing discontentment with the law enforcer’s role in our society, calls to question the very premise of the earlier myth. Classic vis-à-vis contemporary serve as parables one to another, both deflating and inflating the subject matter. The knight’s epic morality is demoted and ridiculed whereas our stiff grey urban “policed” topography is forcibly metamorphosed into wondrous.

Alina Shmukler concluded her studies in the Midrasha Beit-Berl School of Art in Israel before coming to live and work in Berlin. Working here, her thick richly layered oil paintings ponder on the city’s heritage. Taken by its profound cultural and historical assets, fusing the endless tales of countless European centuries all into the shifting locus of Berlin’s present state, Shmukler uses this inspiration to depict nostalgic imagery whose trails and presence can still be found today in her daily surroundings. The now presented oil on canvas pieces, all part of the Unter den Linden series, portray abstractions of the city’s contemporary landscape, generously saturated with material, transforming the flat painterly surface into a lurid object, adorned with impressionistic sentiment and a dreamy distant romantic horizon. Inside this festive celebration of color and texture one can also sense the strong influence of early German Neo-Expressionism.

Dorit Bialer studied visual-communications and design in Jerusalem’s Bezalel academy. The line between contemplative design and purely artistic social commentary fluctuates in her work constantly. Through her use of graphic tools, Bialer creates elaborate visual puzzles bearing the likes of strict yet playful Infographic aesthetics. In them, she attempt to map down various common perplexed social situations characteristic of the Berliner post-modern multicultural present state. Here in her current presented work too, Bialer has systematically orchestrated a symbolic layout which follows the logic of a game board, somewhat echoing Nazi propaganda posters. The corresponding theme of the map is the integration of Jewish Israelis in Berlin, outlining their conventional routes in the process and pinpointing the dilemmas and obstacles that anticipate them. All of Bialer’s observations are carried out in a simultaneously critical and humorous manner.

Benyamin Reich attended the Bezalel art academy in Jerusalem. His earlier works focused on the visual traits of the Ultra Orthodox Israeli subculture, from which point he extended his observations on to the country’s contemporary landscape, always maintaining a nostalgic position, reaching out to biblical idealistic landscape representation. The result is landscape photography which remains true to Utopian perception, seeking to reinvigorate the found israeli scenery with spirituality. Although seemingly oriented to the “holy land” alone, Reich has brought this very aspiration to Berlin as well and has managed to successfully implement it in his current outlook on the city’s religious assets. Here he searches for the connecting points between seemingly distant spiritual sanctuaries. Despite their ongoing rivalry, Christianity and Judaism grew together side by side throughout the ongoing European history, up from the establishment of the early Jewish diaspora and up until Judaism's notable diminishing and near expulsion during WWII. Reich studies the similarities of sacred artifacts, objects and relics and finds that the interior design of both churches and synagogues reveal symbiotic traits, indicating of the intercultural discourse between the two separate religious institutions.

Lior Wilentzik attended the Midrasha Beit-Berl School of Art in Israel. Her work tackles unattended organic and decorative imagery inside “casual” living space. Judaism's tendency towards visual minimalism along with Israel's young history - characterized at the same time by pragmatic socialism and militarism - created a plain visual environment lacking decoration. Paradoxically, acquiring one’s visual orientation in such aesthetically dry environment, invokes the desire for extreme inspection of its scarce use of aesthetics. And so trained in this visual dissection, Wilentzik now comes to question the nature of classic German decoration as well and its residing effects on contemporary design trends. Germany in comparison to Israel is characterized by a rich decorative legacy, hand in hand with its rigid imperialistic Christian past. The raw footage at the foundation of Wilentzik’s current series, Mashy Trashy Crosses, was all gathered from various Christian cemeteries in Berlin. Selected images were then processed digitally into icon-like collages, swaying on the lines of graphically sharpened, gravely charged symbolism and genuine vibrant decoration. This aestheticizing of politics is used here solely as a contemplative practice rather than a strategic means.

Alma Alloro studied in the Midrasha Beit-Berl School of Art in Israel and concluded her further studies in the Bauhaus University of Weimar. In pen drawings on architectural paper, later developed into short frenetic animation pieces, Alloro revives the Bauhaus movement’s celebrated core symbols (the triangle, square and circle), only to desecrate their purity altogether. Furthermore, the bare technical grid-aesthetics of these corrupted designs and the recurring mechanical apparatus generating the clips, are also reminiscent of a more primary ideal: Germany’s longtime ethos as spearhead of Europe’s industry and production line. However, lacking a decisive objective or directing ideology, Alloro’s practice parades these founding modernistic national elements into an amusing low-tech salad of dysfunctional glitch. Germany’s healthy orderly functional maneuvers are rendered masturbatory, Alloro’s hand crafted laundry machine washes away Bauhaus’s refined ideology of functional beauty, trades its iconic solid colors with hyper-saturated radiance and leaves our eyes transfixed on the perfectly geometric stain.

Shira Wachsmann studied in the Berlin Weissensee School of Art. Her works deal with our multilayered relation to land, in both respects: land as "earth" and land as "place". There is no single recurring creative method, yet despite the polar variety of thoroughly executed techniques, an authentic reciprocity is constantly maintained in the works - bridging between the conceptual-representative and the bare organic. The materials in the forms conceived, refer to sanctuaries and rituals. Natural substances such as soil, metal, coal, straw and foliage convey history - be it signs indicating a collective and personal memory, or naturalistic structures, such as the bird's nest, whose very obsessive-like Sisyphean formation adheres to the historical process of its creation. Altogether, In profound confrontation with biblical and philosophical ideas, Wachsmann thematizes the concept of "home" and how this topos can provide insight into the origins of identity. Within the governing premise of this group show, one might be drawn to ponder on the manifestation of this key notion within the confines of the vast metropolitan zone.