CURATION

Neopostism? Neosent? Group exhibition, Agripas 12 Gallery, Jerusalem, December 2021 - January 2022
Curators: Lena Zaidel, Sasha Okun. Contributing Artists: Doron Adar, Dina Blich, Max Epshtein, Boris Kats, Yuval Kedar, Natasha Kuznetsova, Rita Mendes-Flohr, Sarah-Nina Meridor, Michal Orgil, Rina Peled, Bitya Rosenak, Ruth Schreiber, Ronen Siman Tov, Ben Simon, Yossi Waxman, Gabi Yair, Michael Yakhilevich, Lena Zaidel, Oded Zaidel, Elizabeta Zaidner, Leonid Zeiger

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Six selected images from the exhibition. The artworks for this exhibition are accompanied by reproductions from the classic Sentimentalism.

On the right: Anne Vallayer-Coster, A Vase of Flowers, 1781 (detail)
 On the left: Ruth Schreiber, Garden of Eden, 2021, silk, plastic, 120x60 (detail)




On the right: Anne Vallayer-Coster, A Vase of Flowers, 1781 (detail)
 On the left: Ruth Schreiber, Garden of Eden, 2021, silk, plastic, 120x60 (detail)



On the right: Johan Pasch, Conversation, 18th Century (detail)
 On the left: Rita Mendes-Flohr, In Burhan’s Yard, Jordan Valley, 2017,
 digital photograph, 30x45 (detail)




On the right: Jean-Baptist-Simeon Chardin, Glass of Water and Coffee Pot, 1761 (detail)
 On the left: Lena Zaidel, Couple #5, 2021, soft pastel on paper, 65x55 (detail)




On the right: Hyacinthe Rigaud, Louis Henri, 1720 (detail)
 On the left: Boris Katz, Introvert, 2021, earthenware, hand build,
 high temperature fired, 57x50x43




On the right: Franz-Joachim Beich, Landscape with Path to Emmaus, 1720 (detail)
 On the left: Bitya Rosenak, See the Voices, 2017, watercolor on Braille paper, 35x60x8




The Neosent Phenomenon

About ten years ago I became aware of a trend forming in the contemporary arts: works that were more altogether narrative, labored, figurative, and works that stressed human emotion. More recently, as a result of visiting a great number of exhibitions, I began to notice a shift in the manner that visual arts objects are treated-in both technique and theme. The treatment or "presentation" has become softer, more communicative, more inviting to engagement and discourse.  I have called this phenomenon NeoSentimentalism, "Neosent" for short. It seems to me correct that these inclinations can be considered another facet of postmodernism, except that Neosentimentalism comes from a perspective that is more human, less alienated and without pretention. (1)

While reflecting on this trend for this contemporary exhibition I discovered a mirror of the properties of, or a kind of accord between, the classic Sentimentalism and the new Sentimentalism. Classic Sentimentalism was born and developed in Europe between 1720 and 1780 as a rebuke of mass production and mechanization. The process of its formation was gradual and smooth without a militancy instigated for its progress.  The ambassadors of culture in the period: artists, musicians, writers, and philosophers did not protest in their contention to industry, rather the opposite, they remained firm and advanced processes to highlight the "Human Elements" in their works. Some of their themes were mystical narratives, allegories, nature, daily life scenes, childhood, love and death. Their creations were poetic, emotionally saturated even swimming in pathos. (2)

The New Sentimentalism, as did the classic, focuses its intention on the human and the emotional. The differences though are manifest in the presentation and the approach. These new sentimentalists fuel their messages with emotion, but emotion is used as a raw material and not as the central message or aim. The feelings and emotions are presented mostly with an ironic bent, as kitsch, carnival or in homage to quotations and through those widen and enrich the dialogue with artists from the past. To illustrate this dialogue just mentioned, the artworks for this exhibition are accompanied by reproductions of examples from the classic Sentimentalism.

The new Sentimentalism as did the classic, sprang up and developed in a manner harmonious and natural, without rousing militant expressions, here on a flattened digital and alienated landscape, without opposition to technological progress, rather focused and concentrated on the subjective experience and all of its associations. In our unstable times, the Corona Pandemic era, while enduring the closures and the isolation, the profound subjective experience and the personal statement are the standard bearers at the front, becoming the value and a refuge, solely almost, not just for artists but similarly for all that is termed "culture". (3)

This exhibition is a kind of experiment testing the relevance of the spirit of NeoSentimentalism in the contemporary Israeli art scene. Is there such a trend at all? Is it appropriate to call it NeoSentimentalism?  Rather is it more appropriate to call this growing sentiment by a more ironic title: NeoPostism, as suggested by the artist and co-curator of this exhibition, Sasha Okun in his essay "Message in the Spirit of the Times"? 

Lena Zaidel



1) Postmodernism is a phenomenon irreversibly deteriorated towards what the author calls Posthumanism. Neosentimentalism is the suggested alternative to the growing anti-humanist trend, and turns to the ‘human.’ (Read Michel Houellebecq “The Possibility of an Island”).

2) Classic Sentimentalist artists: Jean Baptiste Chardin, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Jean-Etienne Liotard, Thomas Gainsborough, Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-Le Brun, Richard Brompton, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Thomas Jones and many others.

3) Neo-Sentimentalist artists worldwide: Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, Kiki Smith, Yinka Shonibare, Liliana Porter, Jessica Jackson, Beth Katleman, Vered Aharonovich, Shay Azulay and many others.



Message in the Spirit of the Times


The unique current of Neo-Traditionalism, lends itself to a wealth of individualist modifications, touching the ontological essence of art, a way of taking responsibility in the wake of a self propelled existence manifested in traditional culture sustained in meta textual structures expressed specifically as depressive with relation to the expenditure of time, borne as hostile and dangerous with regard to the essence of the elusive and never grasped, since the compressed language can grasp the aim only in morphological syncretism.

Whew…Now that you are duly assured of our facility to demonstrate a text in curatorspeak, let us, for the sake of change, express ourselves clearly and as human beings. As is said, facile vero iucunda loqui.(1) The issue is as such that artists are in a terrible condition if not to say a tragic condition. For thousands of years we artists were an integral and essential part of society and we have ceased to be that.

In truth, we are of no consequence and we are not needed. Need convincing? Let us suppose that artists were to go on strike (for whatever reason, and as might occur in any developed country where percentages of construction budgets for public buildings are allocated for artistic contribution such as mosaics, frescoes, stained glass displays etc.) For the sake of comparison: demands from plumbers engaged in like public projects would be met within five days; demands of dockworkers- within a week; demands from medical doctors and public service workers- maybe a bit more time than others; but there is no one who would pay heed to a striking artist, and rightly so. Society does not need artists.

Consider Susan Sontag's exemplary statements "Times of collective enlightenment have passed peacefully and remained in the past: as of today, all the great minds, as well as the dead endorsements, the foolish and wise — one way or another, have already spoken and spoken." (2) True and firm words. The waves from the tsunami following the revolutionary art movements at the turn of the previous century have passed us by and left us the postmodern mud of worm eaten carcasses. Yes, all those who refer to themselves as: neo, post, or new.

What then, if it is so, can be done? After all the needs of society demand new products on a monthly basis, and from where will such material come? We have already sliced open the belly of the shark and have exposed Ciccolina. We now find ourselves like street walkers trying any trick to gain attention (interesting to note why it is illegal to sell one's body, but one's soul may be sold without limit or hesitation- just a musing digression). Still, do not shame us for our fervent debasement because we ultimately wish to be, simply to be useful.

But how do we secure that? How? Truthfully, the formula is quite simple: in our eyes, forming a band, excuse me, a group was always easier than to set out alone.  Any such group must retain a manifest. This manifest proclaims urbis et orbis (3) the emergence of this new stream as unlike any before it (or almost as unlike any other before it).

So said, we now turn to Neo-Traditonalism, the scholarship of which we used to form this text. What will happen if we appeal to the emotions or feelings? What if we name our new venture Neo-Sentimentalism? It does seem that there is a memory of this tradition in literature, even in the plastic arts, although not fully. This is the opportunity to grab the golden ring.  On approach the issue is this: we have considered and debated and have come to the consensus that 'neo' is corny, 'post' is passe and with regard to 'new', between us, this venture is not at all new! No not at all, although, so as to say yes (also maybe no?) Our statement must be radical! It must stand for all time. Therefore, we hereby celebrate the emergence of the new and ultimate trend Neopostism.

Neopostism, both neo and post simultaneously, manages to embrace all that will happen in the past and that which has already happened in the future. Neopostism is as universal as a food processor, as comfortable to use as well worn shoes, and as elegant as a Rolls Royce (or a Steinway, as you like).

The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset brought to light an idea in his time, that a thinker is only a thinker if he confronts the era in which he lives. But it too must update itself to the times. We perfectly confront our times in that we do not confront our times. . Not a bad thought, right? In short: Welcome to the club!

With blessings,
Sasha Okun


1. (Facile vera iucunda Loqui) How nice to speak honestly.

2. Susan Sontag, Thinking Against Oneself: Reflections on Cioran.

3. (Urbis et orbis) To the city (Rome) and the world.


 


 

Neopostism? Neosent? 2021

Homage to Moshe Castel

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Beyond Rubies 2016

The Artist as ... 2014

An Artistīs Credo 2014

The Factory Yard 2014

The Earthy Sky 2013

An Air Siren 2013

Natasha from Africa 2012

Different Reality 2010

Bon Voyage 2010

Four Walls 2010


All rights reserved to Lena Zaidel copyright 2008-2021