Feathers, gold, and concrete


March 2024


The Laurie M. Tisch Gallery Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
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about the exhibition

For more than twenty years, Eliahou Eric Bokobza has been engaged in a critical observation and depiction of Israeli cultural identity, addressing the multitude of contradictions, nuances, and myths that comprise its distinctive texture. His signature style, accented by geometric patterns, floral and semi-ethnic designs, celebrates a convergence of Orient and Occident, tradition, and modernity. Bokobza’s exuberantly colored paintings, sculptures, and video-animation dismantle assumptions about cross-cultural, trans-referential history, arguing both that differences are smaller than perceived and that liberal progress is less advanced than we may have hoped for.
Bokobza’s intricate oeuvre unfurls, fragmented but constantly interconnected. He mines his auto-biographical sources: born in Paris to an opera singer and legal scholar who had emigrated from Tunis, he grew up in a Francophile environment. The family was proud of its North African Jewish roots even after they immigrated once more, to Israel, when he was six. His protagonists bear identical features, all with wide-open eyes observing the absurdities of life. Tel Aviv – Jaffa, his home, appears repeatedly in his work –with its International style buildings, its hallm the Muslim, Ottoman, and European history of Jaffa; the sprawling beach, and its local – global aspirations.
“Salt & Pepper”, an edition of colorful sculptural objects, is a concise portrayal of the East and West dichotomy. The miniature International style building, the (white) salt shaker, towers over a domed oriental edifice – the (black) pepper shaker. These hand-painted 3D-printed PLA resonate Bokobza’s cross-cultural and cross-temporal considerations.
The Eurasian Hoopoe, Israel’s national bird, is a recurring motif. According to the myth it conveyed King Solomon’s invitation to the Queen of Sheba, thus making it a symbol of bridging cultures. The Eurasian Hoopoe features in small jewel-like paintings on lavish gold (washi paper glued to gold foil) and in paintings of imaginary urban scenes. Embedded In these are witty criticisms of racism. This can be expressed in a cake such as the popular tête de nègre (chocolate-coated marshmallow). In “Tête choco,” a cute child (the artist’s alter ego) dressed in colonial attire stands by a stereotypical servant – cum – Genie. In a video animation of a flâneur in Tel Aviv, the bird again signifies cultural hybridity.

Curator: Dr. Smadar Sheffi