Sometimes a fortuitous confluence of events flows together in a way to give one pause. Such is this moment for A Studio of Her Own, a Jerusalem non-profit dedicated to helping women create, exhibit and promote their art. The organization, originally founded to give support to Jewish religious women artists, has in recent years broadened its mission to include all women artists, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. A Studio of Her Own has just moved into a beautiful, roomy and centrally located space after being based in a former bomb shelter in the south of the city. The space was the home of the well-known Israeli artist Pinchas Litvinovsky for close to 40 years, until his death in 1985, but has been unused since then. The remarkable coincidence is not only that the home of this prominent artist, (known locally as “Bet HaZayar”, the “House of the Artist”) has now become a thriving art center, but also that 2019 is the 100th Anniversary of the artist’s arrival in Tel Aviv on the SS Ruslan. The arrival of the Ruslan (currently the subject of an exhibit at the Israel Museum) was pivotal in setting the cultural tone of the new city of Tel Aviv, and by extension, the entire Yishuv. Landing in Tel Aviv in December 1919, the Ruslan heralded the beginning of the Third Aliya, as its 600 immigrants from Odessa would form the core of the intellectual elite in the growing Yishuv. The Zionist leader, thinker and art collector Yakov Pereman was on that boat (bringing some 200 works of modern art for the express purpose of exposing the Jewish settlement to European modern art), as was the poetess Rachel.
Among the many prominent individuals were Pinchas Litvinovsky and his wife, Liza, and as part of the exhibit, about ten of Litvinovsky’s works have been given pride of place: The Synagogue of Petach Tikva 1925; Arab Child Beating a Drum, 1925; and The Orange Seller, also from 1925, to name a few. In addition, there is a portrait of him by the artist Yitzhak Frenkel (1899-1980) from 1935. Litvinovsky’s career spanned the optimism of the 1920s through statehood and the various artistic movements that followed. His works are in a variety of styles, among them: cubist, naive, expressionist and minimalist. In his later years, he became known for his portraits of renowned Israelis, including the writer Haim Nachman Bialik, President Zalman Shazar, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan. Litvinovsky was, however, unique among many of the Israeli artists of his generation, because unlike others, he depicted traditional Jewish topics, such as synagogues and rabbis, the latter being the subject of an exhibition held in 2010 at the Bar Ilan Library. Women praying at Rachel’s Tomb are the subjects of a large work dating to the late 70s that hangs in the entrance to his apartment until this day.
His house has been left as is for the time being. Old radios, mirrors, kitchen utensils, toiletries, a rotary dial phone with phonebooks (made of paper!), and a shoeshine bench are among the objects of daily Israeli life that give one the feeling of entering a time warp—suddenly we have been thrown back to the simpler, pre-Start-Up-Nation Israel.
To celebrate the inauguration of its new home, the studio commissioned several artists, under the direction of curator Ruth Oppenheim, to create site-specific works, using the aforementioned found objects, or responding in some way to the environment of the space and to the artist’s life.
Andi Arnovitz’s “Wonderkammer” culls diverse items found in the home and presents them together in a snapshot of a past life.
Heddy Abramowitz’s paintings resonate with the kitchen where time has stood still.
Zipi Mizrachi, the founder and director of A Studio of Her Own, has great plans for the center. Besides a large gallery space for exhibits and a studio and residence program for women artists that will allow bringing an infant, the following are also in the works: a hub for women creators, including writers and scholars; a resource center/library on women in the arts; and a garden café. In the meantime, stay tuned for a fascinating upcoming exhibit in February featuring artists Amira Zian, Noga Greenberg, Miri Nagar and Hala Abu Kishek. The present installations are on view until January 23rd. A Studio of Her Own, 15 Kaf Tet B’November, Jerusalem. Viewing hours Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 10-3, or by special arrangement.