If it weren’t for the stairs leading up to the Kav 16 gallery at the Nave Eliezer community center in Tel Aviv, you might easily think it is below the ground. The windows have been blocked with drywall and during the evening hours the combination of the sealed space, the artificial lighting and the massive concrete ceiling give the impression of an underground shelter.
In this artificial shelter-space, Dana Yoeli has created a two sided sculptural installation called Leviathan, which embodies some of the worst demons of Israeli culture. The two completely different faces of the installation are metaphorically nourished by the same body, and their interaction in the isolated gallery space, charges the work with further energy.
The first part of the work is a sculptural concrete- like wall, that stands at the entrance to the gallery space and appears to be a parody of both familiar architectural brutalism and the environmental sculpture of Dani Karavan: both explicit objects—even if different from one another—of modernism; western Modernism as well as Israeli.
The wall—a ‘lame’ commemoration wall somewhere between a wailing wall and a landscape sculpture— hides a collection of porcelain figurines arranged on wooden boxes. At first the figurines seem to be European porcelain figurines one might find in many Israeli households in past decades, but a second look reveals the fact that these are grotesque objects whose glossy porcelain glaze mocks the bloody scenes they describe.
Leviathan deals with demons; with cultural sub-consciousness and suppression; with a culture that is thought to be gone, but whose foundations continue to exist, to evolve, and even to create their own perversion. They are contained beneath a concrete cover, so typical of Israeli buildings, from housing projects to kibbutz dining halls.
But the talk of demons is not the only thing in this beautiful exhibition. In a dialectic process Yoeli criticizes art itself, when under a humanistic guise often prettifies horrors, transforming these horrors into bourgeois décor.