Apartment Becomes Art Space

I spent most of my free time in the last month cleaning up a long-neglected apartment in south Tel Aviv with a group of fellow artists. We patched the many craters in the crumbling walls, hauled away mountains of trash left by past tenants, painted everything white, and built a dividing wall in the kitchen.

Salame 97 Before



Three permanent members and three guest-artists of a group called BreakOn, we faced this dusty, grimey mess in preparation for our second exhibition in an alternative space. BreakOn’s purpose is to provide ourselves with opportunities to exhibit our art, without having to rely on traditional channels to get our work in front of an audience.

Cleaning up the space lead to the inspiration for the show’s theme and the title, Momento. The apartment is a strangely-oriented series of rooms with startlingly low ceilings and odd protrusions everywhere. It is hard to imagine anyone ever having lived in this place! We found all kinds of objects left behind by people years ago, plus remnants that brought us to the realization that the space was also used as a knitting factory for some time. The clothes, papers, and many other personal items we came across made us all think about human memory—how past events can be recalled by the simplest little image, trinket, or phrase. And we had our theme: each artist has expressed in their own way what a memento is or the meaning it can carry.

Included in the few-dozen works on display is an old plastic medicine cabinet that we found hanging on the kitchen wall. It has a red star-of-david on its door, and there were even some gross-looking old ointments left inside. As part of our effort to incorporate the character of the apartment into the exhibition itself, we decided to create a collaborative piece out of this weathered box. Each artist brought a memento or tchochke of our own to put inside the cabinet, and visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to examine these items closely. I left an oragami swan that a close friend sent me in the mail, and another person left a vintage button she somehow acquired on a trip to Lebanon.

I’m ecstatic to be able to exhibit my work alongside five extremely talented artists, but an added treat for me as a graphic designer and all-around design enthusiast is going through the process of branding the show and also configuring the space. In such a quirky environment, hanging fine art becomes a difficult balancing act. We did our best to maintain the character of the apartment in a way that felt appropriate for displaying contemporary art—being careful never to cross the many lines that could easily make this endeavor seem like some sort of craft project gone-wrong. The end result is an immersive experience on many levels.

One of our guest-artists is Mya Guarnieri, a young but well-traveled journalist and creative writer. While the rest of us are visual artists, Mya uses words to illustrate the power of memories. She has two pieces in the exhibition: the first is a series of four poems she has written to deceased women from previous generations in her family, and the second is a heart-wrenching short story that deals with emotional pain, loss, and how important personal belongings can be in difficult times.

Photographer Patti Ezratty, another guest-artist, emulates the way images of one’s past may appear in the mind. Using pinhole camera pictures she took in various places and times in her life, she has created a multi-dimensional collage of pictures. Each one has a story within it, while from afar the collection of memories has an amorphous quality that’s as complex as it is beautiful.

Nitzah Avigayil is an accomplished conceptual artist who has traveled a lot and who, like most of the other artists in BreakOn, has in the past few years moved to Israel from far away. She’s created an installation in one of the oddly carved-out nooks in the apartment. The viewer is invited to interact with a collection of her travel mementos, all sealed in plastic bags and suspended from above.

Also featured in the show are painter Diana Brody, guest sculptor Einav Uziel, and yours truly, Daniel Klein. My primary medium is silk-screen printing.

"Reines Street" by Diana Brody is a series of square compositions on canvas using impressions of the trees that the artist sees on her street

"That's Not A Bird" by Einav Uziel is part of a body of work that explores the spiritual mementos used in Jewish religion

"Tangerine Boys" is a work I created to remind me of a recent trip to Tangier, Morocco. The print is made from a photo I took of some kids chasing each other in the street; nearby, through a massive arched gate, stood a mountain of discarded pieces of tile with gorgeous patterns. I brought a few of these shards home with me and used one of them here.

Momento is at Salame Street number 97 in Tel Aviv through the 22nd of April.
open hours: Monday – Thursday 11 – 2 and 6 – 9, Friday 11 – 3
viewings also available by appointment
closed on Israeli national holidays
please visit the BreakOn site for more information

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