Scenes from Family Life - Eretz Israel Museum

Scenes from Family Life
Works from the collections of Israel Discount Bank and contemporary artists

All happy families do not resemble one another – contrary perhaps to what Lev Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina. Happiness and suffering are not distinguishing factors, in the same way as ethnic origin, tradition, and culture are merely external and superficial characteristics; beneath the surface every family is a world in itself. In all families, life, tension, joy and pain pulsate. Relationships develop and change, boundaries open and expand or shrink. Universal human rules exist in all families alongside personal rules in a private language, known only to its members. And even for them, some things are self-evident derive from some a hidden force, as a rule of nature or a genetic sequence – codes which we obey unintentionally, and they define us.

Then again, one may say that all families do resemble one another: the family is a basic unit, a source of belonging, a point of reference that shapes our view of the world, providing baggage for life’s journey. All families maintain a daily ritual of moving closer and moving away, of dependence and independence, love, concern, compassion, anger, sadness, and happiness. The State of Israel is an ingathering of the exiles, however beyond the social inequalities and cultural differences between various ethnic groups and religions, the family is a subject that preoccupies all of us, and has surfaced in artistic work since time immemorial. Representations that draw on the family photo album, nostalgia and yearning alongside critical confrontation with the national-familiar idea, continue to nourish artistic creation.

This exhibition presents a selection that crosses decades and biographies of artists who relate to the family structure in all its beauty, emotional baggage, and different hues. Masterpieces from the Israel Discount Bank collection, some of them by artists who are no longer with us, meet with the works of young contemporary artists. All these share the personal family context that the artists have imprinted on their work.

Every family is a portrait, and in the same way that there are no two people who are identical in all aspects, family resemblances may also be misleading, as shown in the work of Gary Goldstein. In the works of Meir Pichhadze, Pinchas Litvinovsky, or Yosl Bergner, and also in those of Tali Navon and Amit Cabessa, one perceives the sensitive and vulnerable place from which the artist stemmed, when he or she was a young child. Family scenes of festive meals or assembly can be found in the paintings of Yohanan Simon and Moshe Castel, as well as in those of Iddo Markus and Abir Sultan. Scenarios involving closeness and charged family relations appear in the works of Pamela Levy, Nurit David and Zoya Cherkassky. Pavel Wohlberg and Samira Wahbi relate in their photographs to a wedding as a decisive moment in family life. Asad Azi focuses on the father figure, and Judith Shreiber gazes at the generations of mothers in one family. The motif of mother and child, a dominant idea in art history, appears here in the works of Yehezkel Striechman and Ronit Baranga, that her sculpture works so well concretize the fragility of the relationship. Meirav Heiman and Hila Ben Ari present the family effort to maintain a delicate balance, a kind of acrobatics of daily life, in which family members are dependent on one another, in an equilibrium of power and roles that mandates mutual support, trust and resourcefulness, as well as healthy humor and creativity.