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Leumi's Community Activities

Leumi Hosts Free, Public Artwork Exhibition from Lea Nikel and Khen Shish Entitled: "In the Black Distance”

Leumi continued its tradition of supporting Israeli art and artists, hosting a selection of artwork from the “Lea Nikel and Khen Shish: In the Black Distance” exhibition at the Leumi Mani House – Visitors and Arts Center, from May 19, 2011 until August 30, 2011.  


The exhibition “Lea Nikel and Khen Shish: In the Black Distance”, which was on display at the Ashdod Museum of Art in October 2010, received widespread acclaim in the media and press and attracted national attention. Cooperation between the Ashdod Museum and Leumi has given rise to a renewed display of the exhibition. The exhibition's curator is Naomi Aviv.


Lea Nikel (1918-2005) and Khen Shish (b. 1970) two tempestuous, fleet-footed souls, with a lust for life – met in the arena of painting: one is a modernist action painter, whose art was formulated around the painting style which at the time was at its height, i.e. during the 1940's and 1950's; the other is a post-modernist gesture artist, part of the generation that currently represents the most unrestricted painting in the history of art.


Towards the middle of the last century, action or gesture painting introduced an infusion of new and vital blood into the arteries of formalist abstract art and set in motion a new wave of abstract painting. Lea Nikel – winner of the Israel Prize in 1995, was among the formulators of this wave in Israeli abstract art. The Nikel painting genre dared to shake free of the assets of lyrical abstraction such as the figurative sorcery, the suffocating shackles of adherence to nature, to a model and to the practice of painting from observation. Like American abstract and French Tachism, her painting too strived for universalism while expressing an entire world of inter-subjective feelings: painting that is enlisted for urges of the self, which is no more than non-edited documentation that preserves “mistakes” and impulsive, automatic utterances; painting that is no more than an accumulation of the artist’s feelings in the course of doing and footprints of the painting activity itself; painting that celebrates the concept that views the artist as a natural, authentic force that does not create a picture but rather an “event”; a painting devoid of “subject”, clean of “representation”, also if not lacking in poetic, emotional, spiritual “content”.


And still, presenting two artists from different generations, who work in different emotional registers, side by side - is no mean feat, with all its challenges. In order to emphasize the connection between the two bodies of work that were born out of distant life and time circumstances, works were chosen where the dominant motif is the color black: that same black which, according to Matisse, if you are a colorist, would also be expressed in a simple charcoal drawing. The joint exhibition seeks to examine the connection between the two aesthetic processes and the extent of intimacy or distance between ivory black, which functions as a full partner in Nikel’s colorism – and the carbon, furnace-like black which functions as a default, as a fundamental given and as a black hole in the almost monochromatic art of Shish; the relations between the modernist gesture, that moves under conditions of flow and regimentation in Nikel – and the post-modern gesture of Shish, that weaves between free compositions of abstraction and representation, reduction and symbol, minimal scratches and poetry.


Open to surprises, Nikel and Shish played their painting naturally and embellish it with noise, crashes, rhythmic repetitions, spontaneous deviations, pauses, breaths, meditation and improvisation. The process itself is the subject of art and the painting is a miracle - on this Lea Nikel and Khen Shish would have agreed wholeheartedly, without cynicism and irony.