Chefetz: There They Will Change
Chefetz: There They Will Change My Name will be on view at
the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum from
January 10-February 24, 2002. Yaacov Chefetz, a preeminent
contemporary Israeli artist, will create a site-specific installation
for the museum, which will explore the evolution and psychology of
Israeli identity, from the optimistic Zionism of the pioneer-builders
of the fledgling state to the current angst of a country struggling
to secure peace and stability in a volatile region.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum
One West 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street), Manhattan
January 10-February 24, 2002
Bearing the title of an 1820 poem by Heinrich Heine, "There They
Will Change My Name," the exhibition expresses the complex construction
of an Israeli national identity, bridging the cultural and historical
legacies of diverse immigrant origins, constantly in flux. To explain
the exhibition, Chefetz states: "Heine's motto refers to running
away from one's identity, to the partition created by blurring your
identity. This installation is a continuation of a group of works
that I started in the 1970s. All of my installations explore my
position vis-à-vis my physical condition, which is difficult to
evade. It is hard to introduce a standpoint detached from reality.
It is even harder to set yourself as an objective observer of reality.
Thus the investigation of identity is not a one-time scrutiny, but
rather the continuation of a process."
Hana Kofler, in her essay for the exhibition catalog, states
that the title of Chefetz's work refers to "the transformations
that occurred in Jewish family names throughout the years. A forced
designation or voluntary adoption of names and nicknames throughout
the turbulent Jewish history clearly resulted from processes of
uprooting, wandering, immigration and re-integration." She notes
that in addition to the transformation of Jewish names, the subject
can be viewed through the lens of contemporary Israeli art, "which
for the most part, does not seek out a ‘Jewish' identity, but rather
prefers a modern, international, progressive, up-to-date identity.
The connection to the ‘Jew' is not straightforward in secular Israeli
culture. The present attempt to re-build the bridge between the
Israeli and Jew could be symptomatic of the identity crisis in Israeli
culture that has become disillusioned of the hopes inherent in the
unitary vision of the melting pot."
A large wooden wall will divide the gallery – the area that is
first experienced by the viewer will contain fragments of objects
and emit sounds from a wall whose identity and purpose are unclear.
One passes to the inner gallery space through a doorway inscribed
with the letters "shin" and "mem," which signify multiple meanings:
"sham" (there) or "shem" (name). On the other side of the wall,
video monitors and footage, and the larger part of the embedded
objects and drawings will be displayed. The images will illuminate
what was hidden before and involve the viewer in a process of exploration
and discovery that reflects one's own journey toward identity. Related
drawings will also be presented in an adjacent gallery in conjunction
with the installation.
Chefetz works in mixed media encompassing drawing, sculpture,
video, photography, and earthwork. His exhibitions and site-specific
installations reflect a vast array of influences: his personal perspectives
on his upbringing among the European immigrant pioneers of the Jewish
State, the legacy of the once thriving egalitarian kibbutz environment,
the impact of European culture on Israeli life, the relationship
between Jews and Israeli Arabs in the northern part of Israel (many
of his students at the Technion Institute are Israeli Arabs and
Palestinians), the ecology of the desert and Middle East, and the
flux in identity amongst differing generations of Israelis today.
Chefetz has been associated for most of his career with Kibbutz
Eilon and is a distinguished member of the faculty at the Technion
Institute of Technology in Israel. The recipient of many prizes
including the Incentive Prize for Creation from the Israeli Ministry
for Education and Sculpture, his solo exhibitions include the Museum
of Israeli Art (Ramat Gan), Haifa Museum of Modern Art, and the
Lobelsky Gallery (New York), among many others. His work has been
displayed as part of numerous group exhibitions, including the Artists
Museum (Berlin), the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), Tel Aviv University
Art Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum (NY), as well as in exhibitions
in Stockholm, Cleveland, Portugal, Tokyo, Seoul, and Warsaw, among
many other places; his public projects and sculptures include works
for the cities of Carmiel, Arad, Haifa, Hertzelia, and Tel Aviv,
Israel, and many other projects.
This exhibition, and related catalog and public program, are
presented with the support of the New York-Israel Cultural Cooperation
Commission and the Office of Cultural Affairs, Consul General of
Israel in New York.
Opening Reception with Artist: Thursday, January 10, 6-8
Panel Discussion: Wednesday, February 20, 7:30 pm
"Artistic Expressions of Contemporary Israeli Identity"
Yaacov Chefetz, artist
Meir Wieseltier, poet
Moderator: Dr. Stanley Nash, Professor of Hebrew Literature,
Admission to Museum and Program: Free
Museum Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 am - 5 pm; Friday, 9 am
- 3 pm; Selected Sundays, 10 am - 2 pm: January 13, January 27,
and February 24.
Tours/Information: (212) 824-2205