On View / Sense of place

Photographer Adi Nes often bases his work on parables and collective cultural memory.

Photos courtesy of CEPA, Hallwalls, and the artists


It’s rarely possible for artists to make work uninflected by the nature of their sociopolitical surroundings, especially when those surroundings are as geopolitically charged as the Middle East. In an ongoing series that—over the next six months—will include a rotating group of artists, CEPA Gallery presents the first installment: Place Relations: Identity in Contemporary Israeli Avant-Garde Art.


Working in (mostly) still photography and video, the artists employ traditional documentary practices, fictional narrative, dramatic portraiture, performance, and other strategies to explore personal and political identity in uneasy times. This is the kind of project CEPA does best; it’s a wide-ranging and fascinating window into conceptual art as a global practice, as well as a survey of how artists interpret political upheaval. 


Photographer Adi Nes often bases his work on parables and collective cultural memory.


Work by Re’em Aharoni is included in the show.


Thankfully, humor often alleviates tension, as in the work of Tamy Ben-Tor, who uses over-the-top costumes and makeup for her character-driven performances and videos. Adi Nes’s large-scale photographs are somber, but they immediately appeal through their use of familiar iconography, as in The Last Supper Before Going Out to Battle, which presents fourteen young Israeli soldiers seated at a long table in the postures we know so well. Other Nes images draw similarly upon mythological, art historical, and biblical imagery. Additional artists include Omer Fast, Guy Ben-Ner, Keren Cytter, Yael Bartana, Re’em Aharoni, and Barak Zemer. Not all of the artists make work that might be considered ripped from the headlines. Cytter’s videos, for example, include more personal matter; the artist explores relationships in a highly stylized manner, based on cinematic and literary classics. Ben-Nur includes his family members in absurd adaptations of classic works of literature.


This is not a political show as much as it is an opportunity to experience different world views and different aesthetic possibilities from a compelling group of artists. There is no statement here, but there could be a conversation. 


Place Relations: Identity in Contemporary Israeli Avant-Garde Art opens June 23, with an opening reception 5:30–9 p.m.            


Elizabeth Licata is editor of Spree.


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