‘Unexpected’ Israeli art at Newark exhibit

‘Unexpected’ Israeli art at Newark exhibit

Curator Shlomit Dror points to two of the 17 ladders of Interspacing, created by Milcah Bassel.
Curator Shlomit Dror points to two of the 17 ladders of Interspacing, created by Milcah Bassel.

Three artists from Israel will have their unusual works on display all summer as part of an exhibit called “Ready or Not” at the Newark Museum.

“‘Ready or Not’ is all about unexpectedness,” said co-curator Shlomit Dror, herself a native of Jerusalem. “There are multiple ways of engaging with art. We can smell it and we can walk through it, whether we are prepared for it or not.”

Dror led NJ Jewish News on a press preview before the opening of the exhibit, which includes 38 pieces created by 40 New Jersey-based artists.

One of the three artists who were raised in Israel is Ariel Efron, an Englewood resident who was born in Jerusalem. Efron collaborated with Lucas Vickers on a piece that combines visual and musical presentations and requires participation by those who come to view the work.

The two men chose to create a work near the padlocked bronze doors that were once the museum’s main entrance on Washington Street. 

“Efron and Vickers came here together in December. We looked around the entire museum and they were immediately attracted to the vestibule,” said Dror. “It was the first time this space has ever had any kind of artwork in it. They were interested in the character and the history of the space and added their interpretation to the area.”

The work, called Exit Vestibule South, includes a revolving door that once led to the now-sealed entrance, and a projector casting images of paneled doors opening and closing. That optical illusion is accompanied by electronic music that changes in tone and tempo as a viewer descends a set of stairs.

“An infrared camera detects your movements and sends information to software connected to the projection. As I walk down, I am the musical instrument,” Dror said. “Visitors will be orchestrating the piece.”

Milcah Bassel, who was raised in Jerusalem and now lives in Jersey City, crafted 17 tiny ladders in a work called Interspacing. “All of them are unique and all are built from different materials,” Dror explained. 

The ladders, 18 inches high and four inches wide, are placed in various unexpected places throughout the exhibit: atop a door frame, above a staircase, and leaning inconspicuously at the base of a large mural in the exhibit’s main hall. 

“The ladders have an element of surprise, and they are situated in places that are not too obvious,” said Dror. “They are very humble, and yet their impact is really significant. A ladder is a strong symbol, and its has a very spiritual element that a lot of artists incorporate. There are a lot of metaphors of ascending and descending and they are part of the architecture — but not really. They have this playfulness in the way they are embedded in already built space.”

The third Israeli artist in the show is Etty Yaniv, a native of Tel Aviv who lives in Alpine. Her work, Beyond the Impetus of Gravity, is a 12-foot-high rectangular column “made from scraps of papers from Etty’s environment,” said Dror. “It is an accumulation of artworks that she may have discarded, but kind of religiously kept in a certain order. Her wonderful sculpture gives the impression of something very stable but also something very fragile. It has colors coming out of a monochromatic setting. It took years of meticulous labor.” 

But the curator said she saw no particular statements about Israel in the work of the Israeli artists. 

“Political art is extremely important to have, but I don’t think any of these pieces pertain to any conflict. They are just doing their work in what they believe in.”

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