Critics’ Picks

View of “Efrat Natan: Whitewash and Tar,” 2016. Foreground: Swing of the Scythe Sculpture, 2002. Background: The Big Window, 2015.

Jerusalem

Efrat Natan

Israel Museum
Derech Ruppin 11
April 20 - October 29

Efrat Natan was raised during the middle of the twentieth century on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin, in Israel’s Beit She’an Valley. Without relying too heavily upon her life story, this thoughtful forty-year survey underscores how Natan connects the everyday materials of that time and place to broader, elemental forces. Undershirts, tent fabric, netting, vinyl records, and farm implements are among the items Natan transforms into sculptures, installations, performance props, and other artworks. As a first-time visitor to Israel, I’m sure I missed this art’s many resonances with the nation’s history and terrain. But Natan’s awareness of American and European art of the 1960s and ’70s was manifest. Her artwork aligns with Trisha Brown and Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys and Valie Export; as such names suggest, for Natan, the relationship between the body and the landscape is paramount. She locates, and expresses concisely, the cosmological import of that relationship. Her use of scythes conjures bodily and seasonal rhythms; a large tent hung high on one wall evokes the sun; wisps of white fabric against dark backgrounds summon thoughts of constellations. Nearly everything in the show is black, gray, or white. This visual austerity can lead viewers to think of the artist as a shaman or priestess. But the Conceptual rigor of these pieces reminds us that focused thinking can open up new worlds, too.