The groundbreaking exhibition Without Camouflage. Dafna Kaffeman. Silvia Levenson. brings together for the first time in parallel one-person shows the work of two highly respected artists who are best known as activists who see themselves as drawing attention to evil as a way of precipitating a cure.
Organized by Ball State University’s David Owsley Museum of Art in conjunction with the university’s Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass, the exhibition will be on view at the Owsley Museum from April 11, 2014 through August 31, 2014.
Working independently, both the Israeli-born Kaffeman and the Argentinian-born Levenson who now resides and works in Italy have resisted the larger contemporaneous trend to use video for social and political commentary. Instead, they combine glass with fiber and other materials to make broad, sweeping statements about political and social turmoil, demonstrating that such conflict is the result of a few individuals rather than multitudes.
“Kaffeman and Levenson are frequently associated with the medium of glass” notes Owsley Museum Interim Director, Carl Schafer. “These artists use glass beyond its convention as a craft and load it with meaning, presenting political and socially charged statements about the most complex issues facing humankind today that have their origins centuries ago.”
Kaffeman’s increasingly transparent statements that have dealt, in the past, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, now, with social issues within the State of Israel, are presented in her one-person, mini-retrospective show. Throughout her career, Kaffeman has demonstrated in her work her love of country in spite of the complexities of living in a conflict-ridden land burdened with sacrifice, grief, and remembrance. Although the exhibition includes selections from her work since 2007, it focuses primarily on her more recent work, in particular, three new works specifically created for the exhibition. Like the other works in her “Wolves” series, Defeated (wolf #01) and Defeated (wolf #02) are metaphorical sculptures that symbolize the schism that exists in every individual between inner darkness and the rational and the violence of her world. Her largest mini- environment to date, Untitled (Moshe Silman), 2014, consisting of embroidered felt and rice paper juxtaposed with flame-worked glass wildflowers, comments upon a
disenfranchised Israeli named Moshe Silman who committed suicide in protest against Israel’s welfare system.
Levenson’s most recent series, “Strange Little Girls,” a selection of which is shown here together for the first time, represents a new direction for the sculptor. Unlike her earlier work in which Levenson used kiln-formed glass sculptures to comment upon love, domesticity, and man’s obsessive quest for happiness, in this series she continues her concern with the autobiographical by undertaking the difficult subject of childhood. She focused on the unpleasant and politically incorrect events that children unwillingly experience that contribute to their becoming betrayed, anxious, lonely adults. Motivated to explore this subject by her mentor, the French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois, Levenson has developed a vocabulary unique to this series: instead of using objects to convey the narrative, here animals or half-human/half-animal figures are the protagonists. She also turned to her love of materials to make the forms appear more realistic: for example, the hybrid figures wear actual dresses fashioned and sewn by the artist.
The exhibition, organized by Davira S. Taragin, consultative curator to the David Owsley Museum of Art, will be accompanied by a -page, fully illustrated catalogue. A companion exhibition, Expressions in Glass, featuring the work of five up and coming international artists recommended by Kaffeman and Levenson, will be held at Minnetrista, the cultural center of Muncie, Indiana, from April 19, 2014 through August 10, 2014.