Etamar Beglikter’s series of works in The exhibition We’ve Struck Oil was made in response to the ecological disaster at the Evrona Nature Reserve in the south of Israel in early December 2014. Millions of liters of crude oil leaked from a pipeline, causing severe ecological damage. Images of earth soaked in black liquid inspired Beglikter’s current series. The black capillaries of oil flowing on all sides, filling up the cracks in earth unable to contain it, were relocated into the artist’s studio. In an intensive burst of creativity, lasting just a few weeks, dozens of oil animals rose from black PVC sheets onto the walls. The ecological disaster was turned into a series of symmetrical animals or Rorschach stains, in some of which live creatures are discernible, while others are completely abstract images based on the lines of the black liquid flowing through the river creek. Black cutouts, produced with knives and saws, are a key expressive element in Beglikter’s work ever since 2006, when he made his first works using this technique in homage to the silhouette master and Bezalel artist Meir Gur-Arie (1891-1951). The silhouette, which usually dictates anonymity and covers up identity, serves Beglikter as a way of giving form and breathing life into the abstract forms created by a flowing substance.
Alongside the oil animals, the artist presents a wall with a series of narrative works offering a critical gaze on Israel. A series of maps of Israel are laid out like dead bodies in different poses – the composition of the central one recall’s Picasso’s Guernica – while horrifying oil rigs pump life out of them. These works also wink at us humorously, declaring – as the project is titled – that we have finally struck oil! On the floor, cutouts shaped like cartoon bombs are scattered. They imply an Iranian connection, extending from the history of Israel and Iran’s joint ownership of the burst pipeline to the illustration held up by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his famous speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.
Beglikter explores the Zionist ethos in the context of a man-made disaster in nature. His elegant, aesthetic images serve a critical statement, charged with humor, about the lack of a “responsible adult.”
We’ve Struck Oil
Text: Raya Zommer-Tal
Janco-Dada Museum, Ein Hod 2015
Curator: Raya Zommer-Tal