"Ceramics Israel," the fine show now at the Jewish Community Center, impresses in many ways, above all with its affirmative tone.
More than two dozen contemporary Israeli ceramics artists are represented in this show, organized by the Clay Studio of Philadelphia, and they certainly impress individually. But at the same time, the show as a whole possesses an unmistakably positive character. In an age that often prizes the big, the depressing and the pessimistic, these works have the refreshing temerity to be small in scale, pleasing and optimistic.
Most of this work is sculptural rather than utilitarian, and of the sculptural work, a great deal is figurative, representing either people or animals and, in several cases, both.
Rachel Tzamir's "Government" consists of a row of figures dressed in sober suits, all looking very official and all with the heads of animals. There's the frog and the dog, the mouse and the rabbit, the hawk and the chicken. It's a satirical piece with a serious side but not a vicious one.
Dalit Tayar's figures also have the heads of animals and the bodies of humans, only here the bodies are nude -- so you know her commentary has to do with the human condition, rather than with any particular group or class. Her "Fox," a standing figure with folded arms and narrow, calculating eyes, presents the male as predator in more than one sense.
Mark Yudell's brightly painted works with the intriguing names -- "Afri," "Roshan" -- cover the waterfront: They're vessels (or at least they have openings that make them look like vessels) with animal-like bodies and human heads. Doron Jacoby's figures also amuse, but in a more pointed way: "Bedpan Man" has a bedpan (or really a chamber pot) turned over on his head -- which is probably what you'd want to do to the guy if he's as loudmouthed as he looks.
Hannah Miller's human and animal figures -- "Sitting Angel," "Chicken (Blue)" -- have singular charm and personality. They have their folk art antecedents, but there's something quite sophisticated about them, too. Boris Rubenstein's head called "Rurik" has a cracked, striated appearance like part of an ancient deity found after lying for centuries in the desert.
Viewers will also be drawn to David Morris' three works, especially "Man in Canoe."
Artists who specialize in vessels include, notably, Judith Mayer, Michal Alon, Yael Atzmony and Tania Engelstein. And there are a few abstract artists, including Anat Barel and Ziva Ben Arav. One wants to but can't mention every name.
Clay Studio's director, Jimmy Clark, curated this show, which, because of its size, is shown in two parts. This is the second and is presented jointly by the JCC and Baltimore Clayworks and has been given a good installation. It comes accompanied by a catalog that desperately needed a competent proofreading and didn't get one. It has an appalling number of typographical errors.
What: "Ceramics Israel"
Where: Jewish Community Center, 5700 Park Heights Ave.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays; noon to 2:30 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to noon Sundays; through July 16
Call: (410) 542-4900