To the Cliff
In four short, beguiling films—all shot in Israel and all without dialogue—Oded Hirsch offers poignant visions, grand and small, of spiritual fulfillment. The centerpiece, Nothing New (loosely based on a short story by Amos Oz), opens with a captivating scene: a man dangling from power lines, harnessed to a tangled parachute. Members of a local kibbutz discover him, and with deliberate, ritualized effort, they recover the body, hauling it down by ropes onto a large mound of dirt they’ve painstakingly created by hand. The failure of this apparent messiah to land on Earth brings disappointment (evident in the title) but lets the group demonstrate and confirm the strength of their collective faith.
In Tochka (“point on a map” in Russian), Hirsch stages a similar act of communal labor and belief. A band of men struggles to move primitive equipment over barren hills to a gully, where they spend a full day building a rickety, unnecessary bridge. Yet in the end, when they all file across the planks, you sense that the cooperative accomplishment itself (a kibbutz hallmark) has been enough to sustain their spirit, and that what they’ve actually constructed in this troubled land is a symbol of peace.
More meditative, Habaita (Hebrew for “home”) captures, it would seem, the conflict between the Jewish Diaspora and the nation of Israel: A small boat, unmoored near a shore but stationary, holds a standing crowd, who all stare determinedly into the distance as if longing to be somewhere else (homelands?) but resigned to their fate of immobility.
But the most affecting film here is 50 Blue. In this personal project—the title refers to the identity of the filmmaker’s family in their kibbutz—Hirsch’s brother pushes the wheelchair-bound father across a harsh landscape on a quest for beauty, first taking him to the edge of a craggy cliff for a stunning view and then to the Sea of Galilee. There, using pulleys and ropes, figures in yellow sou’westers hoist the father (still in his wheelchair) up to a viewing platform, where, transcendent, he contemplates a gentle vista of water and sky.
LAUREN LULOFF: ‘RECENT SMALL WORKS’
According to the gallery’s price list, Lauren Luloff’s fabric collages are selling pretty well, and no wonder: They are some of the loveliest little things you’ll find anywhere. Inside modestly sized frames, torn pieces of thrift-store cloth lie in spare arrangements on rectangular “canvases” made from bedsheets. Although echoing Anne Ryan’s late, pattern-based collages of similar scraps, Luloff is primarily a colorist, emphasizing mood. She bleaches her material to achieve the gradations of watercolors and then flattens the layers with liberal applications of rabbit-skin glue and touches of oil. The exquisite blending resembles the effects of stain painting. In Clouds and Conversation, for example, triangular snippings (yellow, brown, blue) float delicately on a milky surface, like translucent leaves on a pond.
Still, you’re always aware that the ragged shapes have all come from other places and times. Scattered on their washed-out backgrounds, mottled polygons, frayed threads, grids, and strips suggest fragments of imagined or remembered moments. With nice timing for spring, Luloff has assembled a series of daydreams. Horton Gallery, 504 West 22nd Street, 212-243-2663, hortongallery.com. Through March 31.
FRANCESCA WOODMAN: ‘THE BLUEPRINTS’
While the Guggenheim runs its retrospective on the tragically short career of photographer Francesca Woodman, who committed suicide in 1981 at the age of 22, the Marian Goodman Gallery is quietly displaying a few of the artist’s last works in a somber little show that feels like a memorial. Although best known for her gothic, frequently unsettling black-and-white images, Woodman was experimenting near the end of her life with other subjects and techniques, using architectural drawing paper to produce moody or charmingly offbeat studies of classical patterns and forms. Here there’s a sepia-toned look at zigzags in a woman’s dress, a comparison of Islamic porticoes with the space between the legs of a baby, and a diagrammatic examination (annotated with poetic text) of old New York bathrooms. For someone so young, the self-assurance was remarkable, and we can only wonder what quirky brilliance might have followed. Marian Goodman Gallery, 24 West 57th Street, 212-977-7160, mariangoodman.com. Through April 28.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 21, 2012