Odessa – Tel Aviv - Eretz Israel Museum

Odessa – Tel Aviv

“Socks and Sandals,” the title of one of the photographs in this exhibition, is an identifying mark of new immigrants in Israel. Nothing will persuade them to remove their socks, and definitely not their sandals – not even if it’s 40 degrees Celsius in the shade.

Three artists – Yuri Leiderman (of Odessa, currently living in Berlin), Xenia Sova, and Angelika Sher (originally from the CIS, currently living and working in Israel) – meet here in a group exhibition, proof of the fact that mounting globalization, the change in the demographic map and climate, cannot erase the imprint of a native landscape. Despite geographical distance and age gap, a unity is created under a cultural flag, which comprises a mixture of symbols, myths and allegories, language and humor, literature and theater, food, colors, fabrics, and aromas.

Works such as Sova’s “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “A New Apartment,” and Sher’s “Socks and Sandals,” were created especially for the Odessa – Tel Aviv Festival. Sova, who calls herself “A Mediterranean Russian” takes external characteristics of Russian identity and renders them ridiculous, employing self-humor that transforms weakness into strength. Sher’s collage is composed of a collection of symbols of Russian identity, as these were etched on the consciousness of a new-veteran immigrant. The objects are possibly standing, perhaps hanging, like medals on the chests of war veterans. While Leiderman – one of the most important contemporary artists born in Odessa – engages in Jewish-Odessa identity, conducting an ongoing debate with the history of art.

For the Jews, Odessa, Russia’s “Wild West,” was a center of physical and spiritual freedom, abundance and wellbeing, study and education. There the intellectual elite of teachers, public figures and writers grew and flourished, adopting the spirit of the Enlightenment and later, the nationalist spirit of modern Judaism. They were immigrants who came from all corners of the Ukraine, White Russia and Lithuania. Here the first Jewish theater was established, a center for Yiddish and Russian writers, and the Hibbat Zion movement that made Odessa a link between Russia and the Land of Israel. While investing efforts in integrating into the new society, many of the immigrants tried to replicate Odessa in Israel, but failed. Odessa cannot be reconstructed outside its time and place