Faces: Inside and Out at the Eretz Israel Museum Tel-AvivJuxtapoz // Sunday, 23 Aug 2009
How do these masks make you feel? (artist: Yehudit Greenshpan)
“People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial. That may be so, but at least it is not as superficial as thought is…. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances”.
This quote, from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, is at the heart of a unique exhibit currently on display at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.
The face of a drunk. (artist: Hanoch Piven)
Indeed, the human face has always been a source of enigmatic fascination. What does the face tell us about its owner’s character? What makes a face beautiful, ugly, frightening or kind? Curator Dana Tagar Heller attempts to answer these timeless questions by juxtaposing various art forms (Hellenistic bas-reliefs, shrunken Indian heads, caricatures, video art and modern masks) with algorithmic formulas aimed at determining ideal facial measurements, and throwing some mysticism into the mix (the face is a central notion in Kabbalah).
The exhibit includes thought-provoking works by some intriguing contemporary artists. Hanoch Piven, a mixed media Israeli artist and illustrator, employed common objects to create a mosaic of faces, with the chosen objects alluding to each face’s character: the drunk has a bottle of Tuborg for a nose, the glutton has bent forks for hair, etc. Israeli mask designer Yehudit Greenshpan created character masks, worn by stage actors in order to demonstrate a certain emotion or trait. Upon donning the mask, the actor often experiences a changed body language as well. Knitted masks, designed by young Frenchman Stephan Goldrajch and intended to provoke feelings of joy and happiness with those who wear them, are displayed near a collection of highly entertaining facial caricatures drawn by various artists, which also serve to show how slight is the difference between what we view as beautiful, and what is considered grotesque.
A clock face. Literally. (artist: Hanoch Piven)
All photographs were taken by the author with the kind permission of the Eretz Israel Museum.