Children's Drawings by Israeli Artists

Review

of an Exhibition

by Devora Liss

Published on December 24, 2015, Modified on December 24, 2015

  • Description:

    This exhibit is a sub-set of a much larger research project undertaken by Ayala Gordon, Israel Museum curator emeritus and founder of the Ruth Youth Wing. It features early examples of artwork by well-known Israeli artists, including Avigdor Arikha, Boris Schatz, and Dudu Geva.

    For each artist, there is a biography (with special emphasis on particular interests or family support), alongside a number of “childhood” and “professional” artworks. The genres and style vary wildly, which I found helped me focus on each individual artist. A few examples are worth mentioning:

    1. Dan Reisinger – his early drawings are very geometrical and cubic. Later in life, he designed a number of well-known posters and logos, including the El Al logo and a poster calling for the release of Jews from the Former Soviet Union. The exhibit also includes a photo of the Tambour (paint) factory, which echoes his earlier geometrical drawings.

    2. Dudu Geva (a personal favorite) – an Israeli cartoonist/caricaturist. The curators chose to display storyboards and drafts of his work, featuring two of his comic characters Ahalan and Sahalan, replete with his wit and dry sense of humor.

    3. Asaph Ben-Menahem. The museum chose to display a large print, titled Angels Hanging. Next to it were three childhood paintings: one featuring what appeared to be impoverished people, highlighting human suffering, another angels, and a third hanging people. These three childhood themes combined, and voila: You have a masterpiece.

    About mid-way through the exhibit, I turned to my friend and asked what she thought the “big idea” of this exhibition was supposed to be. She suggested that the juxtaposition of children’s artwork and well-known pieces aimed to highlight how talented these artists were, even as children. My take was slightly different: this exhibition was a good reminder that anyone can be(come) an artist. The children’s drawings displayed were no different than those taped to any family’s refrigerator.

    As we wrapped around the last sub-section, the answer became clear. The exhibit’s main panel (which was not overly visible upon entering the gallery) quoted Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” This exhibit must, by definition, be curated retroactively. We don’t see other children’s artwork, because they did not grow up to be deemed museum-worthy. The question of what factor(s) enabled, inspired, and pushed the featured artists to become museum-worthy is not directly addressed, but that’s fine – because it’s not easily answered.

    This exhibit was enjoyable to visit, both for the artists I was already familiar with and those I hadn’t previously encountered. I did not see any information (in the museum/online) about how this exhibit may serve as a platform for education program, either on the micro level of learning about individual artists, or the macro level of making art as a life-long calling.

    Such an exhibition can be created in any place and on any scale: the town, state, or national level, and I believe that it indicates a community looking into its artistic future, as much as its past.

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