Modernism 2016
December 17, 2015 - February 7, 2016

Modernism 2016

Modernism 2016

17.12.2015- 29.01.2016

Participating Artists: Guy Avital, Matan Ben Tolila, Elad Kopler,
Hila Toony Navok, Yaara Oren, Galia Pasternak, Yanai Segal,
Guy Yanai, Dana Yoeli

Curator: Nogah Davidson

Modernism 2016 presents nine artists whose work reflects a renewed interest in Modernist aesthetics. Their return to this stylistic tradition is realized in their intra-disciplinary, form-based studies such as deconstruction, abstraction, color, tempo and composition- consequentially it is manifested mainly in painting. The exhibition may be seen as part of a global shift declaring the rise of new, fresh painting that has revived the medium after years considered dead.

The past year alone has seen a number of extensive exhibitions surrounding contemporary painting. Opening in December 2014 “The Forever Now” was the first exhibition dedicated to contemporary painting to show at MOMA, NY since 1984. Curator Laura Hoptman proposed that contemporary artists’ tendency to mix different styles of painting in a single work, testifies to their refusal to represent present times and attests to the generation’s a-temporality. The current edition of the PS1’s young talent show, “Greater New York”, created a stir due to the large amount of painting presented within the exhibition, usually famous for presenting innovative, challenging material. “Unrealism”, a collaboration between the two titan gallerists Jeffery Deitch and Larry Gagosian in Art Basel Miami, showed over fifty artists whom create contemporary figurative painting (and a small amount of sculpture). Lastly, “Tightrope Walk” curated by Barry Shwabsky at the White Cube Gallery in London, surveys some fifty artists who walk the fine line between abstract and figurative painting. Shwabsky demonstrates how the great Modernist masters went freely between abstraction and figuration, stating that the strict division between the two styles was defined in later years by critic Clement Greenberg.      

It is a known fact that Modernist/ figurative/ abstract painting appeals to larger audiences than conceptual art. However, it seems that it is precisely this sort of painting, while easily digested by the public, is challenging for the art world. Though some praise the assumed resurrection of painting, other voices are rather skeptical, seeing it as another validation to the art world’s deterioration into a mercenary industry. The term “Zombie Formalism”, coined by artist-critic Walter Robinson, spread quickly as the derogative title for market- led abstract geometric paintings. Respectively, all the above-mentioned exhibitions prompted a spirited debate among art world professionals about the dangers of awakening the corpse of painting.

Indeed if we compare the founding fathers of Modernist Art from the turn of the 20th century with the artists creating in the Modernist style today, one of the most significant differences would be that those painters of past were considered the exemplary of radical thinking, of anti-establishment, of subversiveness, and iconoclasm. That said, during the one hundred and fifty years since the height of the Modernist era, those same groundbreaking artists have become a canon themselves and their aesthetic style the standard for how outdated, conservative and popular art looks like. 

This is true not only for their style but also for their worldviews, which were also considered progressively liberal for their times. However from today’s standpoint, when there is greater sensitivity to topics of gender and class- it is clear that their exotic- romanticized view of anyone who is not a white male bourgeois like themselves (including women, working class, black and eastern people)- was chauvinist, sexist, colonialist, patronizing and ultimately racist.

Time has shown that the cultural revolution that the Modernist artists belonged to was extremely partial. Today too, humanity has a very long way to go until all men (and women) are equal- if it ever will get there. While the Modernist era was full of ideology and belief in the generation’s power to change the world, today’s generation is not united in a defined movement with manifestoes guiding there way. Our worldview about our limits is pragmatic. As the generation who took to the streets in the summer of 2011 and experienced how the system effortlessly overthrows the revolt, we understand the volume of institutional corruption, power structures and the illusion of democracy.

Hence, despite the seemingly outdated aesthetic, it may be said that these painters express the spirit of our times precisely - the style may be Modern but the outlook is absolutely post-modern, in the sense that it lacks ideology- rather it is post-ideological. It seems these artists' creative process led them to the Modernist style as a means to find their own voice amidst the chaos of meaninglessness. Be it because of their longing to connect to certain historical- cultural roots and use the aesthetic-stylistic heritage left over by the Modernist masters, to encode contemporary (or local) identity. Or be it from their wish to free themselves from any limiting obligations and explore creative experimentation from a playful approach.  

The concerns that have risen in the wake of contemporary painting do not stem from the medium itself, nor from its accessibility to the general viewing public. The concerns are for the basic values of the work of art in the free world- that relate to freedom of speech, to challenging conventions and to stretching the boundaries. It seems today these values come through from an individualistic standpoint rather than a social one. The contemporary painters presented in this exhibition are engaged in challenging their personal limits in their creative process. Thus if the personal is always also political, it can be assumed that even with no ideological foundation to lead the way, there is guarantee for the perseverance of freedom of thought and creativity.


Modernism 2016

Electric Moon Guy Avital
Electric Moon
acrylic on canvas
2014
154 x 174 cm
 
Fence and cloud Matan Ben Tolila
Fence and cloud
acrylic on canvas
2015
155 x 111 cm
 
One centimeter from the heart (diptych) Matan Ben Tolila
One centimeter from the heart (diptych)
acrylic on canvas
2015
40 x 48 cm
 
Elad Kopler
Untitled
oil on canvas
2015
140 x 120 cm
 
Elad Kopler
Untitled
oil on canvas
2015
130 x 100 cm
 
Compote Yaara Oren
Compote
oil on canvas
2015
50 x 40 cm
 
Factory Yaara Oren
Factory
oil and acrylic on canvas
2015
50 x 40 cm
 
Untitled Yaara Oren
Untitled
oil and acrylic on canvas
2015
50 x 40 cm
 
Eclipse Yaara Oren
Eclipse
oil and spray on canvas
2015
50 x 40 cm
 
Untitled Yaara Oren
Untitled
oil on canvas
2015
50 x 40 cm
 
nisi Yaara Oren
Nessie
oil, acrylic and spray on canvas
2015
100 x 150 cm
 
Garden Yaara Oren
Garden
oil and acrylic on canvas
2015
120 x 80 cm
 
Trans Atlantic Orphan Guy Yanai
Trans Atlantic Orphan
oil on linen
2012
160 x 160 cm
 
Israeli Sunset Summer Yanai Segal
Israeli Sunset, Summer
wood, polystyrene and acrylic stucco
2012
100 x 120 cm
 
Vanitas Yanai Segal
Vanitas
wood, acrylic stucco and acrylic paint
2010
83 x 73 cm
 
Sunset landscape Yanai Segal
Sunset landscape
wood, acrylic stucco, acrylic paint and matchstick
2010
42 x 53 cm
 
Still life Yanai Segal
Still life
acrylic paint on paper mounted on canvas
2010
80 x 66 cm
 
White flowers Yanai Segal
White flowers with boats
wood, gravel and acrylic paint
2009
61 x 53 cm
 
Guy Yanai
Non-Mediterranean House II
oil on linen
2015
70 x 64 cm
 
Guy Yanai
Pyramids
oil on linen
2013
60 x 74 cm
 
Hila Toony Navok
Origins
pencil on paper
2013
115 x 87 cm
 
Hila Toony Navok
Untitled #1
inkjet print
2015
120 x 90 cm
 
Hila Toony Navok
Untitled#1
inkjet print
2015
120 x 90 cm
 
Dana Yoeli
The stone Breakers (After Courbet)
Mixed media
2014
186 x 60 x 15 cm
 
Dana Yoeli
The Stone Breakers, model
foam, wood, industrial paint and soil
2014
32 x 24 cm