Ouzi ZUR
Born in Israel
Lives and works in Jerusalem, Israel
Exhibition review

In an early introductory text to this exhibition, Ouzi Zur wrote: "As one whose life revolves around language, whenever I'm away from Israel for any length of time I'm haunted by a nightmare that I'll have nowhere to return to, that the country will cease to exist, and I'll be left to wander the world as a mute."

In linking the fear of muteness with the fear of physical non-being, Zur reflects a national mood: So deep-rooted are such fears that for many Israelis they are part and parcel of personal and national identity. Zur concerns himself with the diverse ways in which Israelis - more specifically, contemporary Israeli artists - address these fears of non-existence and non-identity, the ways in which they survive in - and take on - the embattled homeland with its endless paradoxes and contradictions, and its fragile, precarious existence.

Language has long been a cornerstone of Jewish national and social identity. For thousands of years Jews have lived by the Word, and, as a landless people, the Word was the only Locale truly open to them. It is, Zur notes, this age-old tradition of living in words that Israeli artists must deal with as they struggle to add visual imagery to their means of constructing identity. Once they find, appropriate or invent that imagery, they put it to use addressing the large issues that concern fellow Israelis (of their generation).

As Zur explains, the Israeli artists in this show are all concerned, in one form or another, with various aspects of Locale and Language. Some express - thematically and stylistically - a yearning to be Elsewhere. Others expose and interpret local myths and conventions. Still others explore and upend the very notion of Locale, or of Language.

Local fears, foreign influences, words and images are all grist for the artists' mill.