Daniel S. Palmer in conversation with Louise Evans
Daniel S. Palmer, Curator of Public Art Fund in New York City, talked to Louise Evans, UBS Art Collection Regional Manager for North East Europe, Middle East and Africa about the Tel Aviv art scene and his picks from the 2020 Special Edition of the Independent Artists and Designer Greenhouse, a platform to showcase contemporary creative talent in Tel Aviv and Israel.
Louise: There are 38 artists in Freshpaint’s Artists Greenhouse, with reoccurring themes of layering, memory and transformation, and recontextualizing traditions.
Daniel: I was impressed to see how many works meaningfully addressed the local situation. In many of them I saw thoughtful responses to the complex geopolitics of the region and the layers of history in Israel and Tel Aviv.
Daniel’s top 5 Curator’s Picks:
Eliyah Cohen creates abstract painting that incorporates ready-mades. Her work has a domestic feel and seems simultaneously familiar as well as unfamiliar.
Daniel: The poetic colors spoke to me; they have a soothing ethereal quality and I was interested in her juxtaposition of angular forms and the floating natural form of the branch. The combination of abstraction and representation appealed to me, it gives the work a hybrid, surreal quality. I love that way she includes fabric in her work, as well as plastic flowers and feathers. Her compositions are strikingly dynamic.
Shmuel Goldstein creates very seductive, visually appealing pieces that are concerned with spaces in-between as well as technical processes and traces made by chance.
Daniel: I really loved his footballs, made from used painted canvases. They incorporate transitional movement, to scrutinize the binary contrasts that are so dominant in our culture. The grey area between black and white is a beautiful spaceTamar to make work and Schmuel explores that thoughtfully. He challenges the expectations of what a work of art is supposed to be and elevates what is typically seen as a ‘low culture’ object.
Zohar Tal Inbar employs a traditional style of landscape and portrait painting as well as referencing traditional classical sculpture.
Daniel: I was really impressed with Zohar’s technical skill. I appreciated that she made this body of work that engages with contemporary Israeli culture to question how figures of soldiers and national heroes are represented. There’s a nice balance between history and contemporary life.
Tamar Levy Afasi, Zarbia 11, iron, wire cutting, bending, weaving, 35×61 cm, 2020.
Daniel: The artist is self-taught, which is part of the appeal of her work. The geometric patterns jumped out for me, channeling the long tradition of weaving that guides her work. The textiles that Tamar’s work references have a human presence. The object links the creator and the user, but it also has a nomadic dimension. The work also has a poetic dimension in the way she humanizes the motif of metal barriers that divide people or are used to keep people apart. She shows that something that might seem to be restricting is an opportunity for beauty.
Itzik Mor combines traditional analogue photographic techniques with digital processes and constructs his own physical spaces that have an uncanny quality.
Daniel: I want to spend much more time with these works, they’re photographs, but also objects, and you want to experience them physically. There’s a connection to the many important archaeological sites in Israel and references to Greek sculpture. This is an artist who’s interested in the arc of art history. There’s also a deep engagement with the traditions of photography and how it captures the poetry of the world around us.
Louise: How did you whittle these 38 artists down to just 5?
Daniel: I was looking for works that were the most compelling from an international perspective; that feel relevant and interesting. What I selected feels like it can really hold up at an international level. Several of the works were immaculately executed and you can see I looked at a variety of media. There was a broad range of styles as well. I had the impression that the Israeli art scene is revisiting traditions to expand them to the contemporary moment.
Louise: There appears to be something quite unique to Tel Aviv, welcoming an outsider to participate and contribute.
Daniel: Tel Aviv really is an international city and the Israeli scene is an international one. In New York there’s something of a local Israeli scene of expats. Dialogue with them throughout the years has really helped me see how the country’s art landscape has evolved. In America, specifically being a Jew in America, we often feel a sense of proximity with the people of Israel. Almost like we are cousins.
Louise: The comparisons between New York and Tel Aviv are interesting, just how different, or indeed similar, are they?
Daniel: There is a misconception that the NY scene is always perfectly polished and inaccessible -- it’s a group of people who mostly know each other. I think that this feeling of community is very much the case in Israel as well, where everybody knows anybody else. When I went to openings in Tel Aviv, I saw a lot of the same people I had done studio visits with. There are adventurous, agile and progressive art venues in Tel Aviv, like in New York. All these different levels of structures that fit together, the museums, smaller nonprofits and the galleries, everything feels like an ecosystem that everyone collaborates on.
Louise: Cross-fertilization and a sense of community is a clear advantage to artists working today so I wonder, what challenges do you think Israeli artists are currently facing?
Daniel: In Tel Aviv I was impressed to see support for the arts. Artists should be able to create without financial burdens to thrive. Israeli artists may have to confront political challenges toward their creativity, but I think that sometimes challenging moments like that can inadvertently encourage creativity. A lot of the most interesting Israeli artists throughout the decades have taken the difficulties of the region and responded to them in very meaningful new ways. Artists can be thought leaders and help us see things in ways that can help push the conversation forward.
Daniel S. Palmer is the Curator of Public Art Fund in New York City, where he has organized more than a dozen exhibitions since 2016. These include: Sam Moyer: Doors for Doris (2020), Carmen Herrera: Estructuras Monumentales (2019), Harold Ancart: Subliminal Standard (2019), Tony Oursler: Tear of the Cloud (2018), Erwin Wurm: Hot Dog Bus (2018), and Liz Glynn: Open House (2017), among others. Prior to this, he was Assistant Curator at the Jewish Museum in New York. Palmer has lectured internationally at numerous universities and art institutions, and has contributed essays to ARTnews, The Brooklyn Rail, Mousse, Kaleidoscope, and Guernica, as well as various artist monographs and museum catalogs.
Louise Evans is responsible for curation, acquisition strategy and collection management for the UBS Art Collection across Northern Europe, Middle East and Africa.