Arlene Amaler-Raviv and Dale Yudelman - 'Where the Mountain Meets the City'
by Paul Edmunds
Arlene Amaler-Raviv and Dale Yudelman's new exhibition inevitably invites comparison with their previous collaborative outing at the AVA. While the latter works were set largely in Johannesburg, this new show - on view in a beautiful space right on Long Street - deals exclusively with the Mother City.
The works are all in the same format, each presenting a view from Long Street up the roads which come down from the Bo-Kaap to meet it. The views have been photographed by Yudelman, juxtaposed and superimposed, and printed onto aluminium or glass. Amaler-Raviv has then worked over the images in oils, depicting her by now familiar figures and motifs from the city. So far, pretty much like the last body of work. But there the similarity ends. Where the last body of work embraced vast changes of scale, both in the formats of the pieces and the images within, the new work operates in a much narrower register - and the results are less successful.
Each work is named for the street it represents. Buiten gives us a view up that road towards the houses on the hill. Yudelman has photographed these from closer up, or with a more powerful lens, and they loom large, neither as far in the background as they should be nor as close to the horizon as you would expect. About halfway up the format, Amaler-Raviv has rendered a crowd walking, perhaps on the mountain. Below them, although not part of the same illusionistic space, is a collection of assorted geometrical structures. Unfortunately, and this may be a formal limitation of printing on glass, the tones of the photographic image are very gray, and the painting is similarly without marked contrasts. The figures, too, are not as well constructed as in past works by Amaler-Raviv.
In the neighbouring piece she has worked with greater tonal dexterity, using a deep, rich black to describe an accumulation of rubbish bags on a street corner. This inevitably refers to the shopping bags which were a recurrent motif in the earlier collaboration, but whereas Amaler-Raviv there managed to work in a kind of shorthand, here it appears more like a shortcut. The bags have no mass or presence.
Pepper is probably the most successful in terms of the marrying of media. The photograph, printed on aluminium, provides a kind of archival background onto which Amaler-Raviv has imposed a group of three robed Muslim figures. These are beautifully drawn and seem illuminated in a way that is as much supernatural as realistic. In Bloem, the road is home to a bright blue swimming pool into which a figure plunges (one can't but help think of Kentridge here). In another work entitled Buiten, a series of orange road-cones are painted onto the road's surface. They are accompanied by an unexplained, unclothed, upside-down figure. A nude appears again in Hout, walking awkwardly close to the bottom of the format, carrying what appears to be a mattress. This refugee-like figure is offset by the yellow paint which colours some of the vegetation further back in the scene. The trees of Signal Hill are brought closer to the surface of the format, uncomfortably compressing the space.
The artists pioneered a technique and method of collaboration which gave rise to some interesting work last time round, but which appears to be no more than a formula here and precludes any formal inventiveness. One can't help but feel they are capitalising on the success of their last exhibition rather than moving on. The unchanging format, as satisfying as it is and as beautifully as it is installed, does little to dispel this belief. Compare these works to the three large ones from the previous show which have been hung in the back of the space and I think you'll see what I mean.
Until March 31
232 Long Street (near the corner of Buiten Street)
Tel: 083 434 7100
Open: Mon - Sat