OPERART / GROUP EXHIBITION
participating artists :David Adika | Adi Brande | Michal Chelbin | Ori Gersht | Gilad Ophir | Pavel Wolberg | Naomi Leshem
Curator: Nechami Gottlib
participating artists :David Adika | Adi Brande | Michal Chelbin | Ori Gersht | Gilad Ophir | Pavel Wolberg | Naomi Leshem
Curator: Nechami Gottlib
The Israeli Opera pushes the boundaries of the medium of opera with a unique and groundbreaking project marking the opera season opening: OPERART – an exhibition of artistic photography in which seven Israeli artists present their personal interpretation to seven operas that will be performed by the Israeli Opera in the 2017-2018 season.
The exhibition will open on Thursday, November 2nd at 20:00, at Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, where it will be presented through 12.11.17, after which the artworks will be on display in the foyer of the Shlomo Lahat Opera House throughout the opera season.
At the basis of the collaborative project stands the desire to offer another layer of interpretation to the medium of opera through the eyes of contemporary photographers, and with that, add another tier of observation on the genre, one that is independent from the interpretations of the director and the conductor that will be presented on stage.
The participating artists – David Adika, Ori Gersht, Gilad Ophir, Pavel Wolberg, Naomi Leshem, Adi Brande, and Michal Chelbin – were selected in a curatorial process by the curator Nechami Gottlib in collaboration with the Israeli Opera.
After selecting the opera that they were most drawn to from the seven operas that will be presented by the Israeli Opera this upcoming season, delving into its libretto and music, and meeting with the opera’s artistic team, each artist set off to formulate and offer his or her personal interpretation to the opera, in their unique artistic practice and language.
Adi Brande chose to take on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Boehme (November-December 2017).
At the center of the opera – love at first sight, reunion, and premature death. Brande draws a link between Mimi, the female protagonist of the opera, and the legendary figure of Maria Callas, the ultimate opera diva who ended her life in solitude in Paris, and some say she died of a broken heart. Her artistic career was one of the most glamourous careers in the world of opera, shining with a dazzling light that emanated from her extraordinary stage presence.
Brande’s works summons a charged and fragile encounter between demise and surprising poignant appearance and the disintegration of the figure into the perforated surface, which acts as a camera shutter that exposes and at the same time limits the surface. This situation engenders a pause that allows the viewer to see what is there and understand the absence. The work also manages to resonate and drown Callas’s dark and haunting vocal range with the gray and black tonality of the photograph.
In his work, Ori Gersht addresses A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the 20th century British composer Benjamin Britten based on William Shakespeare’s play (January 2018).
The core of Gersht’s video work is inspired by the events that took place in the enchanted forest: the moment when Oberon the king of fairies puts magical nectar in the eyes of Titania the queen of fairies. One small drop causes change in memory, perception, and vision. The order and history that existed up to that point suddenly render “reality” chaotic.
In the video, we see one drop of water in which the face of a young women is reflect. As the drop falls, it sets in motion a chain reaction of sorts: the figure becomes animated and gains a new life. The drop functions as a crystal prism that moves towards the inevitable crash. After it disappears in the water, it then resurfaces, as though defying gravity, trying to escape its destiny.
The video offers an exploration and meditative reflection on time, in which the past and the present merge into a moment that is simultaneously transient and timeless.
Gilad Ophir chose the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart (February 2018).
Ophir’s work deconstructs the figure of Don Giovanni. As a man in the course of a downward spiral, Don Giovanni fails to record even one conquest during the opera. His lists of conquests are a thing of the past. He lives for his desire; his entire existence is driven by his libido. In his unceasing pursuit of women, he does not look for the thrill of the chase, but for a validation of his masculinity. He spends his live oblivious to the fact that he is devoid of any emotion and no achievement or conquest can ever satisfy him. The only moment he feels something is the moment before his death. For the first time, his heart is filled with emotion – fear. Fear of death. This is the moment of breakdown. The downfall of the seemingly strong man. Here, for the first time he achieves a connection with reality and self-insight. The coldness of death and the flames of the inferno merge in the moment of death, which is also the moment that ends the opera.
David Adika chose Verdi’s opera Don Carlos (March 2018).
Adika’s work draws on the opera’s first act, set in the Forest of Fontainebleau in Paris. Elisabeth, daughter of the King of France, arrives in the forest and reassures the people that her impending marriage to Don Carlos, Infante and son of Philip II, King of Spain, will bring the war to an end. At that moment, Carlos comes out from hiding, sees Elisabeth and falls in love with her. A cannon shot in the distance signifies that peace has been declared between Spain and France. However, moments later, a messenger arrives and tells Elisabeth the news: her hand is to be claimed not by Carlos but by his father, Philip II. Elisabeth has no choice but to agree to the marriage, leaving Carlos devastated.
Adika’s piece is comprised of a double portrait of a man. Both his shoulders are tattooed: on his left shoulder, he has a portrait of Umm Kulthum, and on the right shoulder a portrait of Fairuz. Umm Kulthum and Fairuz are the unchallenged queens of Arabic music. The first is classical, symbolizing loyalty to the state and the government, and the second is identified with protest, standing for social struggle. In the background, a photo of forest vegetation serves as a backdrop to the event, as a political landscape. At the basis of the work, the classical European opera is converted into a local image, featuring, among other things, symbols and representations of classical Arabic music.
Pavel Wolberg’s piece addresses the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, based on a poem by Pushkin (May 2018).
The opera recounts a tale of envy between three sisters and the tale of the swan queen’s release from a spell. Born in the USSR, Wolberg is a documentary photographer. In his travels he captures everyday life and political situations. He searches for traces of the past, historical site, and cultural symbols. His works become iconic photographs, imbued with emotion and conflict that capture the spirit of the place. The photograph was shot in Marianka in Ukraine, where Wolberg came across a sculpture of a swan with a crown on its head, created by an amateur sculptor. The motif of the swan sculpture is drawn from Puskin’s poem – which was adapted into an opera – that Wolberg had known since childhood. Comprised of car tires, the sculpture stands in front of a house that had been demolished and abandoned.
Naomi Leshem takes on the opera Dido and Aeneas by the English composer Henry Purcell (June 2018).
The opera recounts the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas – the son of the goddess Venus and a human man, who escaped to Carthage after the fall of Troy. In Carthage, he meets Queen Dido who falls in love with him. Once she decides to give in to love, she is left in destitute, since Aeneas has to fulfill his fate and the order of the gods, and establish the Roman kingdom. Unable to bear life without the man she loved and abandoned her, she has no choice but to take her own life.
Naomi Leshem’s photo feature a female figure and a wolf. The female figure embodies three women: Venus – Aeneas‘s mother who made him fall in love with Dido so that he will abandon his perilous journey; Queen Dido, with whom he falls in love and decides to stay; and the witch-goddess who makes him continue on his journey. The wolf symbolizes the main male protagonist – Aeneas. Aeneas is ancestor of Romulus and Remus who founded Rome. The key figure in the story is the she-wolf that nursed and sheltered the twins. The interaction between the two figures is also multifaceted. The connection between them is one of farewell, particularly resignation to one’s fate: the female figure seems to welcome the wolf, while the wolf – despite being a wild beast, gives in to her touch, almost becoming domesticated before it moves on.
Michal Chelbin chose to respond to the opera Carmen by Bizet.
Carmen is a character who challenges both life and death. Since she cannot live shackled by norms that she did not choose, she prefers to die free than be with a man she no longer loves. Michal Chelbin chose the figure of the toreador – which on the one hand is a strong and dominant figure, and on the other hand, loses his power when he faces carmen. Wishing to transport Don José into our times, Chelvin decided to photograph a Sudanese refugee from the Central Station, wearing the elegant clothes of a toreador, when the contrast between the elegant outfit and the volubility and fear in his eyes, also symbolizes the contrast and contradictions in Carmen’s character.
Noga Gallery is delighted to present a solo exhibition of the artist Naomi Leshem. The exhibition LANDMARKS consists of a series of new works from 2012/13 alongside earlier photographic series.
Centered comprises 10 photographs, each of a solitary figure – five male, five female–placed in a challenging physical or psychological situation by Leshem. Each was thus forced to confront and cope with the difficult position by finding a sense of order and balance; they each find a way to be centered. While Leshem photographs the figures in stasis, this deceptive calmness is reached only after much struggle. These “struggle to surrender” scenarios address and shed light on multiple issues, namely the questions of gender stereotypes, of the role of the individual in a larger societal context, and of the relevance of a physical place to one’s identity.
Naomi Leshem subsequently traveled around the world, asking strangers for their impressions of the photographs; these foreigners then wrote their responses in their native languages, by hand. Both the sense of calm and the questions brought up by the ten photographs in the series are further reinforced by the abstracted texts and the mystery of what they may mean.
Leshem created a project that is at once international and local, providing a global context that has become increasingly important and inescapable in an ever-changing and complex world. Naomi Leshem’s pairing of the photographs with personal and international responses establishes that contemporary art is often the best conduit to make sense of these changes.
Trust Me 2012
The glossy surface of Leshem’s photographic sculptures is reminiscent of porcelain and appears to be both fragile and precious. The photos, folded and fixed using a clear varnish, establish new connections within the images’ content, telling a story of their own through fragments of their subjects that can be made out and identified.
Way To Beyond 2003/06
Leshem narrates a story of disappearance in seemingly serene and quiet locations, places of vanishing; such as, a remnant of an airplane in the depth of the Sea of Galilee, traces of an airplane that crashed and remained in the sand of a crate in the desert, a motorbike accident in a highway leading to the south of the country, a policeman stabbed to death found in a back side of an apartment building, or a drown man who was found in a swimming pool.
Photographing these landscapes not only describes the moment of its capturing, but also the moment of the death of a human being in the landscape. Therefore, the location was not shot as a landscape but as an observation of what accrued within the landscape.
The series Runways is photographed in a symmetric composition with accurate alignment controlled by linear perspective creating harmony within these photographs. The landscape is burned and dry and the sensation of blazing heat rises from the scorched asphalt in the far horizon. The stillness in which the runways are found creates a high tension reality, this is the moment where we encounter the absence in the afternoon shining sun there is no movement on the burning runways, a place of threatening danger. Alongside the runways Leshem staged young women giving life signal in the still and barren landscape suggesting an axis-mundi, the idea that a pole is an axle of the world linking earth and heaven and symbolizes the dialog and mediation axle between the known and unknown.
The desert is an image that Leshem is constantly exploring, drawing a parallel between the desert space, an organic, infinite and abandoned, fluid space and the hard to define orders, a pre-rational space of spirit and contemplating territories which are not bound to civilized logic and a part of its rules. Nonetheless, Leshem covers the desert landscape with urban measures, and thus turns the image into an arena of confrontation between the rational and irrational. In the imagery of the desert, which is often conceived as monotonous, Leshem leads the gaze into the depth of the frame: a red stain of vegetation, land that rises up to sort of a barrow that creates rhythmus with the hills and wall sands next to it – the desert landscape being discovered not only as primordial and ancient, but also as a spectacle of delicate balances, hushed almost lyrical landscape.
In all of the works there is a representation of Leshem’s observation of the landscape. Some of the works appear strictly as landscapes, however, there will always be another element – immersed gazes into death (in Way to Beyond death landscapes are being depicted; Runways carries a violent and deadly potential in staging the young women in these sites), representations of narratives, contemplations, and associations.
There is a tension between the local and the universal in Leshem’s works. The debate is not the political or social aspects of Israel; instead the basis of the scenery through the Israeli landscape is one of the substances which effects Leshem’s practice.
The work reflects the general and does not remain in the personal state of the artist although it has biographic and autobiographic derivatives. Concurrently, the subjects of Leshem’s work, such as death, adolescence, transitions between different phases are universal even though they are staged in local districts. The concept of time the decisive photographic moment is prominent in her works turns in her works to defuse and captures different times within one image.
Naomi Leshem, born 1963, graduate of Hadassah College, winner The Constantiner Award for an Israeli Photographer, The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel, exhibited in solo and group shows in Israel, Europe and the U.S.
In 2014 Leshem had two solo exhibitions at the Andrea Meislin gallery in New York where she exhibited works from the series Centered and at the Jerusalem Artists House where she exhibited Forty. Leshem is currently participating in the group show Journeys at the Israel Museum. In July 2014 Leshem will participate in a group exhibition at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich.
Her works are in the collection of the Israel Museum Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Norton Museum of Art (Florida U.S), the Shpilman Institute of Photography Tel Aviv, and private collections in Israel and abroad.
Naomi Leshem, Kristina,Archival Pigment Print,92x92cm, 2006-2010
Naomi Leshem, installation detail,Der Mensch erschafft seinen Gott, 2014
Matan Ben Tolila,Raft,150×185 ,2014,oil on canvas
Naomi Leshem, Centered, Installation view, courtesy of Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York