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Roni Reuven / Artist/ Educator/ Community Member

Roni Reuven – artist, director and curator of the Yavne Art Workshop for the past two decades.
As a young boy, Reuven reveled in the love of art and painting of his mother, the painter Elka Reuven. He used to venture outdoors with his mother, her teachers and artists friends of the Bat Yam Institute of Art, as they painted the landscape of the Land of Israel.
After he graduated from the Midrasha School of Art in Ramat Hasharon in the early 80s, Reuven’s works continued to stand out as he participated in numerous exhibitions. Along with artists Tuvia Abraham, Arie Berkowitz, Avi Ezra, and Simcha Shpeizer, who attended the Memad School of Visual Art, he founded the Memad [Dimension] Art Group, which was active during 1988–1990.
The group’s approach was pluralistic with a liberated attitude toward artistic expression. Veteran artists were invited to partake in exhibitions with younger ones. The group continued the joint effort of artists who held exhibitions in alternative spaces, such as those of the 90 Ehad Ha’am Gallery, the Tatrama Gallery, and the Rega Gallery.
Each of the artists who formed the Memad Group intentionally demonstrated an individual style: “The group has no ideology nor a collective style and consists of experienced artists, very often exhibiting. These artists consider the group as a catalyst for their personal art, as a wider framework for the communication of ideas and their subsequent influence, but at the same time maintain their individual path and formal language.”
The Memad Group began its activity at Memad Katan Gallery – a small space within the Prosa bookstore at Dizengoff Center. When the group’s activity over exceeded the small space, the artists launched the Memad Gallery at 23 Pinskar St., Tel Aviv. After the Memad School migrated to Nachalat Binyamin, each member of the group received a private space to be used as a studio at the former location of the school on Brener St. The communal studio space advanced a unique sort of social fiber that also produced a group exhibition entitled Personal Mythologies, at the Bat Yam Museum of Art, curated by Sari Faran.
“The group met regularly in order to come up with a strategic plan of combined activity. … I held courses on printing, in which I specialized during that time,” recounts Reuven.
Arie Berkowitz: “I remember Roni had a great deal of knowledge of printing, especially of silk printing. He produced a special album of the group’s members and guest artists in his printing workshop.”
Indeed, printing is fundamental to Reuven’s oeuvre. He began discovering it whilst serving as an assistant to the artist Rita Alima at the Midrasha’s printing workshop (1983–1984); and later at the Avni Institute (1985–1987); the Bat Yam Institute (1988–1990); and Sapir College (1990–1992).
The Memad Group organized special art projects and mobile exhibitions in many peripheral, rural locations. During those exhibitions, the artists saw that two members at a time would hold gallery talks with the local public. Reuven had his first two solo exhibitions at Memad Katan Gallery, as well as participating in group exhibitions with the group’s members and other artists.
Talia Rapaport: “The deem, mysterious, even surreal, purgatory of Reuven […] In his fanciful world abound strange creatures, limbs, a palm tree, a fountain, primitive signs carved on wood in the manner of cave paintings, which bring about a demonic and mysterious atmosphere with a rich form of expression.”
His large-scale works of that period bring together primitive imagery derived of ancient sources with contemporary motifs from his familiar surroundings. In these works a restricted palette of colors was used with chisel-like technique which recalls that of etching and engraving. From here, Reuven set forth on a path of studying ancient and archetypical sources of inspirations, which will illuminate his later series as well.
In 1988, Reuven took part in the group exhibition Fresh Paint: The Younger Generation in Israeli Art held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and curated by Ellen Ginaton. It displayed the achievements of the younger generation of Israeli artists of the era after the establishment of the State of Israel together with contemporary currents of more established artists: “More than sixty artists who attended art schools all over Israel take part in this exhibition. However, this is not an exhibition of graduates. The curators chose artists, that albeit their young age - some if not all in their twenties - exhibit maturity and uniqueness. Teacher and student are side by side.”
During the late 80s, Reuven’s works were purchased by collectors, as Yossi Hachmi of the Israeli Phoenix Insurance Company Ltd., who likewise issued a catalog for the artist. “On plywood, Roni Reuven recreates the cave, the womb, the ancient shelter. It is dark and the lightness is used to emphasize its primordial nature. Mysteries move about, free floating, forming parts of animals, wholes and limbs, hybrid creatures with a lion’s head, human hindquarters, and uncertain paws. The artist assumes the role of sorcerer, voodoo man, magus, creating in his drawings what will be, engraving, digging, aiming at a central target and spreading out his arrows like a fan from a different point nearby.”
Some of the works in the current catalog were shown in the 1991 exhibition Homeworks at Tova Osman Gallery. The gallery became Reuven's home where he has exhibited for the past three decades. Two years later, he won the 1993 Artist-Teacher Award granted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports.
Since 2000, the artist has been working on a smaller scale with various intimate objects and surfaces. His works focus on childhood games and personal collections of everyday objects such as a needle, a button and a belt. In the catalog of his exhibition Encrypted, Tova Osman wrote: “For many years, Reuven has been stealing away hours of works and encrypting symbols, some subconsciously. His works are in line with his easy-recognizable formalism […] Working like a prophet within, he uncovers his innocent hues of blue. Some may find phallic signs in his works, a cave, darkness, or gushing rapids.”
Since 1999, Reuven has also been acting as manager of the Yavne Art Workshop, where he curates in conjunction with other curators. He dedicates his work to broaden the cultural horizons of his city and to facilitate access to the arts for the denizens. The Workshop is a pivotal location for art and culture in Yavne and its surroundings, as well as a stage for various lectures and other cultural events. The Workshop’s gallery exhibits solo and group works of art by the country’s most accomplished artists and at the same time, stresses the importance of enhancing local artists.
Groups of elementary school pupils and kindergarten children visit the Workshop to learn how to observe art and how to discuss the issues to which it gives raise. After this viewing experience, the children partake in creative activities in line with the current exhibition and its themes. The exhibitions focus on socials issues, like tolerance, multi-culturalism, local issues:
I, the Self, the Other (curator: Bat Sheva Granit, 2014); Home (curator: Tova Osman, 2014); Material Identity … Cultural Identity (immigrant artists; curator: Reuven, 2016).
In order to expand the debate on social issues, the Workshop incorporates activities for special-needs populations and elderlies. These reflect Reuven’s persona as a person, an artist, an educator, and a community member.

Curator: Irit Levin Read more

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