Gal Weinstein’s exhibition Cross-Section at Ticho House winds its way from the temporary exhibition gallery on the ground floor, up the spiral staircase, to the upper floor. There, a number of Weinstein’s works are embedded within the permanent display of the house, which normally comprised charcoal, pencil and pastel drawings by Anna Ticho, a reconstruction of Dr. Ticho’s office, a selection from his collection of Hanukkah lamps, and the original wooden furniture and carpets that furnished the house when it was Anna and Dr. Avraham Ticho’s private home. By placing his works within the Ticho environment, Weinstein acts in a manner verging on the subversive, creating a dialogue with Anna Ticho and her milieu across time, technique and material. It is as if Gal Weinstein, Israeli artist of the early 21st century has stepped back in time to join the “salon” of Jerusalem intelligentsia who regularly met in the house to discuss literature, art and music. The four works dispersed through the rooms of the permanent display each touch on a different element within the house, dealing with either its history, the personal story of the Tichos, the house’s location or the artistic heritage of Anna Ticho.
The first work to greet one after entering the upper gallery is Untitled – the mirror hanging above the fireplace. Initially, the heavy mahogany frame looks like a typical piece of turn-of the-century European-style carving; but a second look reveals the carvings to be not the expected ornamental depictions of leaves and flowers, but symbols of different branches of the Israel Defense Forces: the staff and serpent representing the Medical Corps on either side, the jeep and tower of the Border Police at the bottom and the flaming torch of the Military Police at the top. The military symbols carved into the frame come from a strategy of incorporating the “here” (Israeli military emblems) in the aesthetics of the “there” (European-style mirror). Military emblems and symbolism, a recurring theme in Gal Weinstein’s works (e.g. Fighter-Diver, 2002, at the Herzliya Museum of Art), connect to his preoccupation with the way in which Israel’s national and Zionist history is interpreted and turned into local mythology.
His Father’s Eyes, 1997-8 – a photographic collage of Gal Weinstein’s lower face and his father’s upper face – has been hung in Dr. Ticho’s office. This older work, whose name is taken from the age-old phrase “He has his father’s eyes”, gives a visual expression to the phrase. The work explores the complex relations of father and son, and its installation in a new environment, giving it a fresh interpretation: on the one hand, relating the Dr. Ticho’s profession as one of Jerusalem’s most esteems eye doctors and the eye clinic on the ground floor of Ticho House that he ran from 1924 until his death in 1960, and on the other, a reminder that the Ticho marriage was a childless one.
Olive Pizza (Proposal for an Outdoor Sculpture), 2003, is another preexisting work that has found a new context. The bonsai olive tree with its concrete and gravel surround has been placed on a low table next to two armchairs, so that Anna Ticho’s delicate charcoal renditions of olive trees (1935, 1940) can be seen at the same time. The olive tree with its gnarled trunk and dusty green leaves is ubiquitous in the local landscape and appears in many iconic Israeli landscape paintings and photographs. The tree has come to symbolize an age-old connection to the land, its fruit a simple but ideal way of life (exemplified by the lyrics: “We haven’t eaten anything yet […] give us bread and olives!”). Weinstein updates this humble local dietary staple by making it a pizza topping; no longer a local dish, it is now symbolic of the globalization of contemporary consumerism. The aesthetic language of the work cites many monuments and outdoor sculptures spread around the country that aspire to combine nature with modernism in order to create a clean and quiet place the unconsciously produces a sense of belonging.
The four landscape “drawings” (Untitled) in the last room of the gallery are visually the most directly connected to the landscape drawings of Anna Ticho in the exhibition. Weinstein’s depictions of forested hillsides are rendered in steel wool fibers, felt and cotton wool, adhered to the paper. Until one notices the texture of the works they appear to be charcoal and pastel drawings. As in most of his works, there is a twist, a hidden element within the image; in this case, the romantic images are not pure landscape drawings, but portrayals of forest fires – the landscape that Anna Ticho was so taken with, she felt “the landscape chose me” – is going up in flames, disappearing before our eyes.
Through the installation Cross-Section and the works discussed here, Gal Weinstein engages in a dialogue with Anna Ticho, Dr. Ticho and Ticho House. His works touch on many elements and images connected with the history of the house and its previous inhabitants, but the points of contact – hints, allusions and subtle twists – are often ironic and humorous, rather than blatant responses to the past. The range of pieces presents a cross-section of his own work from the past decade displayed in a new context. Beyond his preoccupation with interpretations of local history and landscape, a common thread throughout is his use of modern, industrially-made material such as MDF, plywood, concrete and steel wool. The medium and technique used by Weinstein, as much as subject matter and visual appearance, firmly place his artwork at the start of the 21st century, a time when landscape can be processed and packaged – built out of plywood and artificial grass – and an olive tree can be shrunk down and brought indoors as part of a model for an outdoor sculpture.