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The work of Etti Abergel (*1960 Tivon, Israel, where she lives and works) sets up a dynamic relationship between installation and sculpture. It is not only conceived for the site but it is largely made on site, whereby the exhibition space becomes a lived-in, breathing environment.

“Etti Abergel: Memoir,” the artist’s solo exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo, is constructed as a visual memoir of three chapters and an afterword. In the Ground Floor Gallery, the first chapter, Canapé, welcomes the visitors into a living room of sorts. Canapé is the name of a French-style sofa that became a common name in Arab-Jewish / Mizrahi households in Israel of the 1950s to denote the low seatings that were a staple of their common rooms. But any signs of luxury are merely hinted at here. Small appearances of ornamental cushions, lace decorations and silver tea trays can be found in this environment whose seatings are largely nomadic: One such arrangement is foldable, while another is raised from the ground, serving for storage or shelter underneath; a third is placed on a freight cart, while others lie high up on a wooden scaffolding. Abergel’s visual lexicon often marries the language of décor – understood as aesthetic excess – with the rough, prosaic aesthetic of construction and manual labor. Here, she further introduces into this lexicon the language of drawing, evident in lines of stitching, weaving, tying and knitting, as well as in marks of graphite and staining.

Behind the wooden scaffolding, the second chapter reveals itself as a back room. Titled Chaplin, this chapter is an associative homage to the makeshift screening balcony that Abergel's grandfather built in his backyard, where as a little girl she was first exposed to the classics of cinema, and especially to slapstick comedy. Here, the cinema projector is represented by a reading lamp surrounded by a black thicket of yarn. The language of slapstick can be found, for example, in the large object dangling from the low ceiling, a humdrum take on a chandelier. But for Abergel, slapstick humor is laced with underlying violence – forks can be found sticking out of cans of conservatives – as well as the antics of class. Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and others were famously hailed as working class heroes; Abergel readily echoes this fact in those very food cans (typical of the everyday workman), as well as in the bunks that recall workers' dormitories.

In the First Floor Gallery, the third chapter presents individual sculptures on an intimate scale. The name of this chapter, Challah and Banana, derives from nicknames given to two different types of hairdos that would adorn the heads of young women in her neighborhood. The title summons an emotional register of performed femininity, one that extends to some of the objects on view, like the many iterations of purses and high heeled shoes – knockoff designs that the artist finds in stores that are today on the brink of bankruptcy. In the unlikely connections between these and others, Abergel draws on her artistic pantheon – which counts among it mother figures such as the surrealists Meret Oppenheim and Sophie Taeuber-Arp – and introduces them to the heroines and heroes of her childhood. Through ordinary objects and invention sculptural techniques, Abergel collects fragments of life stories about longing, dreams, and failed attempts; small victories alongside missed opportunities.

And at the end, an epilogue. In a small, black antechamber off the First Floor Gallery, Abergel presents Camera, a private and mysterious camera obscura. From within a knitted object suspended in space that resembles a traditional galabia garb, a beam of light emerges like a blank after-image or a memory already past.

“Etti Abergel: Memoir” is curated by Tamar Margalit.

The exhibition is accompanied by printed matter in Hebrew, Arabic, and English; exhibition tours in Hebrew on November 11, in English on December 9, in Russian on December 14 and 22, and in Arabic on December 28; a Walkthrough led by the artist on September 21, December 15, and January 12; and a kids lab led by Eden Bannet on January 13.

“Etti Abergel: Memoir” is supported by the Rywkind Ben Zour Grant for Art, Education and Community, and Mifal HaPais Council for the Culture and Arts. Additional support provided by Nurith Jaglom and Nicole and Benjamin Fadlun. Hospitality kindly provided by Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

Through the Rywkind Ben Zour Grant, a select group of art students and recent alumni of Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art took an active and meaningful part in the exhibition. The artist wishes to extend her deepest thanks to each of them – Adir Cohen, Shir Cohen, Noa Mor and Masa Omar.

The artist also wishes to thank Ehud Alkov and Daniel Eichenberger for their help in mounting the exhibition; Nisan Eliyahu Cohen and Ya'ara Sofer for their assistance in the studio; and to Villa Maroc for their generosity. Special thanks to Tali Blumenau and Naama Arad.



“Etti Abergel: Memoir,” 2023

Views of the exhibition at CCA Tel Aviv-Yafo

Photo: Eyal Agivayev

Etti Abergel: Memoir

January 13, 2024

September 21, 2023

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