JBL 2003

2001 - 2003

The Big Vacation

The new paintings of Jenifer Bar Lev are remarkable for their freedom, for the license to be whatever they want – decorative and colorful, political, elbowing Oriental esthetics and winking towards American Pop Art, psychedelic, abstract and textual.
This is Bar Lev’s first solo exhibition after some years of refraining from exhibiting, and it appears that in these paintings she is celebrating her ‘vacation’  from labels and definitions; the colorful grafting of English words and phrases, textile patterns, images of ayatollas and Moslem militiawomen, along with a family in the ‘safe room’, compose a mosaic which does not add up to any one thing which can be called by name other than a private world, varied and open to influences from every direction.
But notwithstanding their variety, the new paintings maintain a natural continuation of the drama which formed the basis of Bar Lev’s previous work:  the coupling of text and textile. Each of these disintegrates into more and more components, and the end result is art which is not interested in external dictates of what is correct and what is inappropriate, what is artistic and what is beautiful.

One must begin by saying that Jenifer Bar Lev is a painter down to her fingertips, and the world of painting in all its aspects and desires opens before her, before her talent and her experience. Bar Lev is exhibiting after a period of silence, and perhaps this is the Achille’s heel of the exhibition. Bar Lev’s painterly language is American at its base. Particularly apparent is the influence of Rauschenberg and Johns – the language of appropriation from other sources (the use of the written word) on a background of painting and collage, and the structures wherein the copies are inserted.  The exhibition floods the viewer with a multiplicity of images, styles and quotes, a multiplicity which as if stems from a lengthy abstinence, which is interesting in itself, as a visual encyclopedia:  psychedelic LSD arches, a portrait of Bin Laden as part of a botanical dictionary, pieces of furniture in a technicolor sea under the stars of the European Union – psychedelic hallucinations in a kaleidoscope of forms and words.
However, among all this richness,what is lacking is the glue to join the disparate elements, some center to this pluralism which would permit the viewer to connect to the paintings, to the truth beneath the surface. And thus the viewer remains with the flood, beautiful in itself, without knowing how to relate to it or how to ‘use’ it.
And where is Bar Lev in all this richness, the personal, specific human voice is as if swallowed up in the heat, the urgency – and where is the pain?

I found this review by Uzi Zur interesting, particularly the critical parts, because the ‘flooding’ effect on the viewer is precisely what I was aiming for. As with any flood, either one gets swept away and transported to another place, or, as in the case of the critic, one just gets wet.