Dreaming In Chelsea
07/03/2013 - 20:37
Gloria Kestenbaum
Adi Nes, Untitled, 1999. Digital C-print. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Adi Nes, Untitled, 1999. Digital C-print. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

After having lived in Israel for a few years, Andrea Meislin has become an advocate of Israeli photography and the group show now on view in her eponymous gallery is a testimony to that devotion.  Over half the works featured in “Perchance to Dream,” which address themes of sleep and intimacy, are by Israeli artists; and unfairly or not, association with Israel brings with it a specific political and international urgency.

Although many of the photographs are apolitical, photos of sleeping soldiers, such as that by Adi Nes, with a rifle butt at its central frame, or by Pavel Wolberg, whose sentries rest in the shade of a hulking tank, are at odds with the notion of gentle and restful sleep.

The show is composed of 24 photographs, one etching and one video, Lullaby (2012) which for me, at least, was strangely hypnotic. I entered the video chamber, lured by the sound of sweetly sung songs, and found myself unable to leave. Hadassa Goldvicht and Anat Vovnoboy, the videographers, asked personnel from the Israel Museum to recall lullabies that were sung to them as children. The collage of tunes recalled in various languages was both spellbinding and soothing while the parade of young, middle-aged and elderly faces, from all parts of the globe and all walks of life, peeling away adult tensions to recall a moment of early serenity was surprisingly moving.

The unexpectedness of a young Israeli hipster crooning “Layla, Layla (Night, Night),  followed by a security guard singing a Russian folk tune, the secret smiles revealed as adults turn back the clock – all suggest intimate moments of recollection and retrieval. Presumably all the singers were loved – only beloved children get lullabies sung to them – and each recording was word-perfect, even decades later. Many of the tunes hearken back to the early Zionist state, a very different place from the current state of Israel. What happened in the intervening years, what did these wrinkled, grizzled faces look like as babies, as children? 

Perchance to Dream is an interesting look at our alter-egos, our sleeping selves.

 “Perchance to Dream” is on view through August 9th at the Andrea Meislin Gallery, 534 West 24h Street, New York City.

Gloria Kestenbaum is a corporate communications consultant and freelance writer.

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