David Morris in Tel Aviv
Written by: Angela Levine
This is a short tribute to the sculptor David Morris of Kibbutz Ein Hashofet (b. 1936 USA, in Israel since 1962), currently exhibiting in Tel Aviv. A tribute that extends to many other dedicated Kibbutz artists, some of whom, like David Fine and Bernie Fink, also came to Israel from English-speaking countries. All of them work outside the mainstream of Israeli art, but are, dedicated professionals, nevertheless, who have been enriching their communities through their art and cultural leadership for a very long time.
Morris’ exhibition is not a retrospective. The distinctive character of his small wood-fired clay pieces has remained unchanged for decades, whether one looks at the anthropomorphic images he creates, or his collection of almost formless human figures with hollow slits for eyes, gaping mouths and truncated arms. Whether the artist agrees or not, this writer finds links in these works to the ancient cultures of South America; but more especially to the sculptural art of the ancient Middle East, as exemplified by Ashdoda, the well-known 12th century BCE woman-chair figurine in the collection of the Israel Museum or the bird-faced ‘Astarte” amulets dating from the 6-8th centuries BCE found at Megiddo and Hazor.
But these cult objects do not possess the animation or grim humor that is Morris’ trademark. Among the 40 pieces on exhibit, many are depicted in motion taking part is some undefined collective activity, others run aimlessly in a circle. Some pieces are very strange like the pair of human heads sticking out of a rudimentary house and an outsize clay foot with human eyes. Others are simply macabre, like his representations of dead fish lying in a tomb of sand, or a figure with wheels instead of limbs. And, then there is a piece that this writer has not seen before that of a man with ‘electrified’ hair riding atop a mobile rocket launcher.
Unfortunately, the coldly formal atmosphere this gallery, tucked away in isolation on the second floor of a building where few art lovers will find their way, saps much of the vitality out of this presentation. Over the years, Morris has had many successful solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the country. This venue does not do him justice.
Open to August 31st 2012
Gallery of the Shalom Tower, Echad Ha Am 9, Tel Aviv. Tel: 03-5179965, open Sun-Thurs: 9.00 – 18.00; Friday 9.00-13.00