Friday, April 4, 2008

Personal Landscapes: A Talk Featuring Talia Keinan

By Lana Stephens

On Friday, March 28, I attended an artist talk featuring Israeli artist, Talia Keinan. The artist presentation and brief lecture poignantly elucidated the goals and directives of the upcoming exhibition, “Personal Landscapes,” at the Katzen Art Center. “Personal Landscapes” (April 1 – May 18) will feature the work of fifteen emerging Israeli artists that through their work represent the present physical, emotional, and intellectual conditions of modern day Israel. During the talk, audience members were informed that the exhibition coincides with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Exhibition collaborators include the Center for Israel Studies, the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, and the American University Museum. American University Museum curator, Jack Rasmussen, in conjunction with Dalia Levin and Russell Stone, traveled to Israel to become more familiar with the burgeoning art scene and in the process brought back with them extraordinary young talent.

Israeli born artist Talia Keinan lives and works in the bustling city of Tel Aviv. Keinan received her M.F.A. in 2005 from Bezalel Academy for Art and Design, located in her home town. She has a long and hearty list of solo and group exhibitions, not to mention quite a few substantial awards under her belt. Keinan has the kind of resume that makes you guess she’s much older and wiser than her thirty years of age. All credentials aside, Keinan’s work and presentation was incredibly engaging, and I felt privileged to hear what this artist, who lives and works across the globe, had to say about art.

Talia presented what can only be described as an organic body of work. She combines drawing, sound, projected video, and light to form a sort of tapestry. Her installations envelop the gallery space and even transcend the borders of dry wall to incorporate the temporal passing of day via sunlight. An example of the artist’s weaving of personal and imagined events is her installation titled “Walking Distance,” exhibited at Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. A drawing of a landscape done in pencil on black gouache hangs on the back wall of the gallery space. The sound of a car’s engine escalates as the headlights illuminate the monochromatic drawing. The light and sound of the vehicle are synchronized so that they escalate simultaneously. The drawing, once seemingly passive, becomes active in that it serves as a definitive place for the imaginary car that is passing by. Nearby in the same space, a pool of light is projected onto the side of a wall. The “pool” forms a projected hole in the dark room of the gallery space, letting the light from the “outside” seep in. The projection is actually a recording of a public garden in Tel Aviv. Nearby still, fallen cups and saucers form a fountain that continuously flows despite their being left unattended. The fragmented elements come together to form a series of events that take place within “walking distance” of each other.

Talia Keinan, whose work I found fascinating on several different levels, experienced some mild difficulties in discussing her work on Friday. I feel communication was primarily hindered by language barriers. Though the artist was often able to articulate herself, she required the use of a translator throughout her talk (which of course is fine). I felt as though some of what the artist was trying to say was lost in translation, either by the translator or by audience members attempting to “fill in the blank” with their own assumptions about her work. I would have liked to hear more about content and historical influences as the presentation was primarily process and/or materials driven. Part of me wonders how much culture has to do with how one discusses or values art. I began to evaluate and re-evaluate how and why I discuss my work within the parameters that I, the institution, and Western culture have set. I encourage readers to attend this exhibition which I feel will ultimately broaden one’s personal and artistic horizons. I find myself increasingly challenging the doctrine under which my work is made and find that exposure to artists working within different cultural contexts can serve as a catalyst in that process.

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