Etamar Beglikter (b. 1977) is a multidisciplinary artist that has participated in numerous group shows, such as in the Israel Museum and in the Centennial Exhibition for Bezalel held in the Luxembourg Museum of Paris.

Beglikter is one of the most fascinating and promising young artists that have worked in Israel in recent years and I am honored to host his first solo-show in the Artists House. This exhibition demonstrates the main characteristics of Beglikter's work in which he cleverly draws contrast between image and material in subtle humor. Constantly challenging the borderline of the medium, Beglikter disseminates familiar ideas only to evoke intelligent and acutely sensitive reinterpretation.

 

Arie Berkowitz 

Chief curator, Artists House, Tel Aviv

 

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In Shadows Etamar Beglikter continues to deal with images and symbols that are engrained in the national collective memory. The central work-series in Shadows is composed of black paper cuttings that function like silhouettes on the white wall, woven together into a delicate and complex visual structure. The black silhouette erases details that appear in the center of the image yet lingers in minute details over its outline. Here, the outlines are enough for us to learn that the silhouettes are soldiers – some carrying weapons or wearing protective helmets, while others ride in tanks or talk into communicators.

 

The series was created in homage to Meir Gur-Arie, a prominent artist in the Bezalel School in the 1920s and 30s, and specifically to his series of silhouettes depicting pioneer life in Palestine. At first glance, Beglikter maintains the romantic and idealizing tone that characterizes the works of Gur-Arie, but as we observe the works more closely some gaps begin to appear. It is thus that we are confronted with certain ambivalence between what we expect the works to convey and what they actually communicate in reality: One work depicts a soldier with unkempt hair sitting inside a tank. At first, the soldier seems to be holding binoculars to his eyes so as to observe the battle-scene, but a closer look reveals that he is in fact sipping from a bottle of beer. The same soldier reappears in a second work, this time with his legs spread apart and placed firm on the ground, as if ready for battle. We then notice that the soldier is not in his uniform, but rather that he is in his underwear with his weapon and communicator device thrown on the ground by his feet.

Shadows

Text: Tamar Margalit

Painters & Sculptors House in memory of Zarizky, Tel-Aviv

Curator: Tamar Margalit

 

Beglikter's works are based on photographs from his own family album that document his father's time in the army as soldier in the Yom Kippur War. The family trauma fuels Beglikter's choice of imagery and yet Beglikter consciously takes two steps away from it, as his works focus on the 'in-between' moments of battle – moments characterized by a sense of idleness and lack of ceremony – and manipulate the structural array of the image. By so-doing, Beglikter joins a line of artists that deal with the stereotypical effect achieved by the silhouette technique: from Gur-Arie's portrayals of Zionist pioneers, to Kara Walker's contemporary silhouettes that deal with the role of women in African-American history.

 

Drawing on his interest in formal patterns from the collective memory of Israeli society, Beglikter translates familiar (or even over-familiar) faces into unexpected materiality that is rooted in American pop-art tradition. Golda Meir's portrait is engraved on a plastic bucket, and Herzl adorns two identical prints, both techniques reminiscent of pop-art's usage of reproduced prints and ready-made objects. In a move of surprising irony, Beglikter replaces Andy Warhol's pop-art icons, among whom are Marilyn Monroe and Jacklyn Onasis, with icons from an opposite frame of reference – close, serious and fundamentally "un-sexy" – of Zionism's visionary on the one hand, and Israel's fierce leadership on the other. Herzl's prints are titled Without a Beard, and in this context Herzl's famous beard is paralleled with Marilyn Monroe's famous hairdo – both of which serve as visual features that are enough to identify the depicted person.

 

Baruch Blich writes about the alternative modes of commemoration that Beglikter formulates in these works: "Beglikter translates the high to the low, the divine to the popular, not so as to glorify the characters depicted, and certainly not in order to glorify the Zionist past of these immortals. Rather, he aims at lowering these national leaders into the aesthetic grounds of daily life, plain and unbiased… choosing, for instance, to use plastic buckets as material – the same buckets as those used during construction to mix cement in – on the one hand serves to tie the depicted leaders with familiar work standards, while at the same time subversively criticizing those that spoke greatly of the ethics of labor yet were hardly acquainted with it themselves."

 

Beglikter deals with the mythical status of military imagery at large – not only those of combat soldiers, but also the symbols and attributes that belong to these battlefield legends. The third print in the exhibition depicts two combat planes dropping bombs with the open sky in the background. Other military images serve as concrete materials in the sculpted object that completes the body of works in the exhibtion – a petit and shiny dreidel. The dreidel, which is traditionally made of cast lead, is transformed in this work, as its four sides are made up of military metal discs, hanging on the wall from the silver chain of the disc; the handle and tip of the dreidel consist of a golden bullet casing. The personal identifying details that are engraved on a military disc are here replaced by the traditional Hebrew words 'Nes Gadol Haya Po', thus replacing the individual identity of the soldier with a general, national identity.

 

The shape of the disc remains true to a military disc, divided to two sections, so that the soldier then breaks the disc in half and puts each part in one of his shoes. This simple act that is required from every soldier hints at the ambivalent fate that the soldier's military service entails. The traditional dreidel game involves gambling, as children guess which of the four letters the dreidel will eventually indicate. The aspect of gambling in this seemingly innocent child-play echoes the unknown fate towards which the soldiers are heading. The golden bullet pierces through the dreidel, threatening to disrupt its stability. The circular tip of the bullet is a-proportionally enlarged, thus instilling the object with a sense of imminent danger. At the same time, the golden dome of the bullet resembles the architecture of a Muslim mosque – an architecture that in itself is distinctly rooted in Israeli reality, and in the sense of "here". 

Tamar Margalit  

 

Beglikter © 

work title, 2009

work title, 2009

Dreidel , 2007-2008