MECA: Middle East Center for the Arts “Spring 2012” at Mana Contemporary

All the works display an individualistic expression that is forged from the artists’ unique experiences and visions, centered on concerns from family relationships to gender issues, distilled into a universal application.

In Photo Reports Reviews by Mary Hrbacek 2012-04-10 print

“Spring 2012,” curated by David Wakstein, features the art of twenty-one artists who live and work in Israel. Their heritage spans Jewish, Muslim, Druze, Christian, and Bedouin ancestry and the English, Arabic, and Hebrew languages. The range of cultural heritage, history, language and religion in the area is part of the reason that Eugene Lemay, Yigal Ozeri, Said Abu Shakra and David Wakstein worked to create MECA, a center for Middle-Eastern artists to communicate and collaborate. This exhibition focuses on the personal expression of the individual participants, rather than on a preconceived theme. “Spring 2012” is intended to reflect the outpouring of social and political dissatisfaction in the Middle East that has erupted this past year. Diversity is the salient point that marks this exhibition. All the works display an individualistic expression that is forged from the artists’ unique experiences and visions, centered on concerns from family relationships to gender issues, distilled into a universal application. By fostering shared experiences around the exhibit, and through educational programs, MECA strives to promote micro-dialogs among the artists that would reverberate in their homeland, in the hope that this would initiate a trend towards exchange, communication and understanding.

In Farib Abu Shakra’s video, “Internalizing the Senses,” a soldier, stripped to the waist and with a tight black hood over his eyes, wanders through a market. He seems to be both seeking and asserting his humanity, while his identity is submerged within his “soldier” status, indicated by his camouflage pants and boots. Another video provides a forum for the artists to express their own issues; the piece highlights the immense variety of viewpoints and concerns. Hopefully, this presentation will stimulate new insights and perceptions within the artists’ networks of relationships in Israel.

Khader Oshah 'Self Portrait' Mixed Media 30 x 45 in.

Khader Oshah 'Two Bedouin Teenagers' (2011) Oil On Canvas 56 x 39 in.Khader Oshah’s “Self Portrait,” in mixed media, displays a self-portrait head combined with Arabic text, in a personal exploration of Oshah’s Arab identity within the context of his life in Israel. His painting “Bedouin Sheppard with Dog” brings home the diversity of experience that a purely migratory desert life entails.

Gideon Gechtman 'White Obituary' Industrial Paint On Plywood 122 x 94 in.Gideon Gechtman’s textural announcement of his own death, “White Obituary,” jokingly tweaks the custom of announcing a death so people can pay their respects.

David Wakstein 'Map' (2006) Mosaics On Plywood 95.5 x 94 in.David Wakstein’s regional map stresses history, both ancient and current, through the use of mosaics, an age-old approach to form and material.

Sasha Serber 'Jewish Grave' (2011) Styrofoam And Hydromalt Paint 67 x 67 x 27.5 in

Sasha Serber 'Twigs' (2005) Matrix Cast And Acrylic Paint 78 x 6 x 6 inSasha Serber’s charred wall work “Twigs” mirrors the destruction of nature, with its attendant hope for regeneration.

Dina Shenhav 'Rest' (2001) Acrylic, Sponge On Cardboard 79 x 138 in.Dina Shenhav’s “Sacrifice of Isaac” employs acrylic and sponge on cardboard, in an inventive use of media, illustrating that facing the unthinkable sometimes results in a new reality.

Asad Aziz ‘s “Soldier and Civilian” reflects the conflicting aspects of daily Israeli life.

Jenifer Bar-Lev 'Dalai Lama' (2009) Acrylic On Linen 59 x 49 in.Jennifer Bar-Lev’s “Dalai Lama“ stresses the universal aspects of the world religions that span the practices of the area.

Anisa Ashkar 'General (Muhammad Ali)' (2004) Photography 39 x 71 in.Anisa Ashkar’s photograph, “General (Muhammad Ali),” displays an image of a girl in a black top, set in a black background, wearing red boxing gloves. The “red” suggests blood, and the “darkness,” the despair and ignorance that must be challenged.

Vered Kaminsky 'Split Stones' (2012) Stones and Wood Frames 28 x 20 in. “Split Stones” explores an alternate view of the regions geology. On a positive note, Vered Kaminsky’s “Untitled” gives scope to the creative, hopeful transformation of bullets into ingenious works of sculpture.

Micha Ullman 'Cups' (2006) Print 32.5 x 25 in.Micha Ullman’s “Cups” displays two vessels that provide food for thought.

David Ginton’s piece, “The Back Side,” explores the information to be found on the back of framed works of art, disclosing the artist’s desire to view not only what is intended for display in a work, but its hidden meanings and messages as well.

Fatma Shannan 'Girls' (2010) Oil On Canvas 39 x 59 in.Fatma Shannan’s painting, ”Girls,” deals with the inequality and suppression of women and individual expression in Druze and Arab cultures.

Raffi Lavie’s loosely drawn linear piece, “Untitled,” reflects a highly individualistic approach to art making.

Many of the works on view are reminiscent of a desert environment, with their monochromatic, sand colored palettes harking to a land of blazing light that bleaches the bright appearance of spectral hues.

Participants: Farid Abu Shakra, Hannan Abu Hussein, Anisa Ashka, Asad Azi, Fatma Shannan, Micha Bar-Am, Efrat Natan, Jennifer Bar-Lev, Gideon Gechtman, David Ginton, Fahed Halabi, Michael Halak, Vered Kaminsky, Raffi Lavie, Manal Mahamid, Khader Oshah, Sasha Serber, Dina Shenhav, Micha Ullman, David Wakstein, Gal Weinstein, Reuben Zahavi,

The MECA is located at 888 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07306

Mary Hrbacek

Mary Hrbacek. Mary Hrbacek has been writing about art in New York City since the late nineties. She has had more than one hundred reviews published in print in The New York Art World, and has written for NY Arts magazine. Her Commentary spans a broad spectrum of art, from the contemporary cutting-edge to the Old Masters. She has covered exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Armory Show, the Affordable Art Fair, and two consecutive Venice Biennials. After a trip in 2002 to China, Hrbacek wrote a special essay report on the cities of Beijing, Chongching and on art in Shanghai. Hrbacek is an artist who maintains a studio in Harlem. Website » See other writings

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