Israel’s Best Hangs

"Israel in Crisis: 20 Years of Israeli Art, 1980-2000," a summerlong avant-garde art exhibit at The Jewish Federation’s Bell Family Gallery, distills some of the best painters who have brought about a revolution in the Israeli art scene.

The collection is courtesy of Michael Hittleman, who since 1976 has specialized in Israeli artists at his eponymous gallery. A graduate of Fairfax High and UCLA, Hittleman said that even though the exhibit doesn’t overtly show the political and social aspects of Israel, those aspects permeate the subtext of works by the Israeli and American artists on display.

"It’s all blended in what they do," he said.

But you won’t find paintings of Israeli soldiers or Jaffa oranges at this exhibit. In fact, you might not know that most of the works were Israeli unless someone told you. For example, the iconographic poster art of the youngest artist in the show, 37-year-old Hilla Lula Lin, has an American art school aesthetic that could easily blend in at the Whitney Museum Biennial Exhibition.

"Twenty Years" offers a nice cross section of where Israel’s art has been, and hints at where it might be going.

Some abstracts, such as 1990’s "The Boat and the Flag" and 1997’s "Hunters and Sailors," both by Moshe Gershuni, carry the hallmark of the "dirty style," a messy expressionistic approach born out of 1986’s influential Tel Avivian exhibit, "The Want of Matter."

There is a rousing, bright and bouncy energy to the colorful "Jerusalem" by naive artist Gabriel Cohen, a Syrian-born, Paris-raised Israeli. By contrast, Farideh draws on her Persian background to create an oil sunset of "Jerusalem" that is much more vague and decorative.

The exhibit also features Moshe Kupferman, whom Hittleman said was Israel’s most influential painter of the last 40 years. "If you sort of get it, you never forget it."

The exhibit runs through Sept. 15 at the Bell Family Gallery, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. By appointment only. Contact Judy Fischer, (323) 761-8352. After Sept. 15, the artwork returns to the Michael Hittleman Gallery, 8797 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-5364.