PALESTINE GALLERY, CHICAGO
Palestine Gallery, a newly renovated art/apartment space, opens its inaugural exhibit “This Is Only Temporary,” a thematic show centering on the Palestinian and Israeli conflict over the right to a homeland. In a single breath, co-curator Edward Salem mentions that 2008 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the formation of the Israeli state and the dispossession of Palestine; formation and destruction go hand in hand. Where many such exhibits might fall into the trap of singsong idealism or rigid didacticism, the collected ten artists instead prod the boundaries of strife with poetic and pertinent means. Judith Geichman shows two paintings, both invoking the mystical side of formalism. Armita Raafat’s site-specific sculpture alters a column and a corner by simultaneously enhancing it with decoration and casting it in decrepitude. The centerpiece is an entertainment center built by co-curators Salem and Yevgeniya Baras. Baras, a Jew and Salem, of Palestinian descent, as lovers and artists embody an open, thoughtful dialogue. The cabinet displays framed pictures from personal and social histories, travel snapshots and mementos. Being that this is an apartment gallery, the cabinet is perfectly in place, and heightens the point that national struggles touch individual lives. Such thoughtfulness, though, strays when passions run hot. Salem’s re-presentation of Internet footage showing the torture and murder of a contractor in Iraq, paired with an “ironically sad” soundtrack, and Eric Lebofsky’s supposedly humorous portraits of cartoonish Zionist females, encroach on forbidden terrain. It’s a struggle indeed.
Published in Newcity (June 19, 2008)