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Intricate Affinities: Recollections of Western Tradition in Local Contemporary Art

Curator: Smadar Sheffi 15.9.2016 - 24.12.2016

Meydad Eliyahu's mural Public Works, Jerusalem Hills ("Planters' Dance" in Hebrew) encapsulates the memory of ecclesiastic frescoes, as well as that of 20th century public murals, especially by socialist artists who exalted the working classes. In local art history, frescoes and murals remained a secondary medium, a stepson in the Israeli canon. Murals by Yohanan Simon, Shalom Sebba, Avraham Ofek, and others garnered limited recognition. Eliyahu employs fresco to shed light on a chapter which has not become fixed in the Israeli ethos: the inception of the immigrant moshavim (agricultural settlements) in the 1950s, whose construction was often imposed on the settlers. Eliyahu refers to the traumatic experience of Malabar (Cochin) Jews in Moshav Mesilat Zion, where his parents reside. Large fresco fragments reveal vanquished-indrawn figures, mostly men, within a deconstructed, wounded landscape. The Hebrew title, which conveys naiveté alongside a hint of ritualism, was extracted from a 1953 song by Yoel Eliezer Shatil, praising the national forestation project. For the Mesilat Zion settlers, public works were the almost exclusive source of livelihood possible at the time. Eliyahu examines the repressed past at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, in the "Mother of Settlements," the very heart of the Israeli ethos. The fact that the work will be disassembled when the exhibition terminates pulsates in its consciousness.


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Meydad Eliyahu, Public Works, Jerusalem Hills, 2016, Fresco on plaster, 400x2940, collection of the artist (detail)

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