In Israel of the 1950s and 60s, objects of metal arts and crafts, souvenirs and Judaica were manufactured in about 20 factories and workshops. The items were prevalent in numerous Israeli households and were sought after souvenirs in Jewish communities in the US, Europe and South Africa. They came in a wide selection, varying in shapes and images, and ranging from Passover plates, Hanukkah lamps and mezuzahs to jugs, plates, ashtrays, and napkin holders, bookends, writing sets, figurines and masks. Many of these objects were the creation of Maurice Ascalon - the father of modern Israel's decorative arts movement - and his Pal-Bell Company. Other of the more well-known makers included Dayagi Brothers and Oppenheim.
These products of the metal arts and crafts industry reflect the Israeli visual culture of their time; they have been part of the new visual canon and a significant stage in its development. As an art historian, Nurith Kenaan-Kedar wishes to investigate the forms and images of the metal industry as a meaningful expression of ideas and messages.
The book presents a selection of these objects, most from the collection of the late Vicky Ben-Zioni. The research of these art objects is focused on several key questions, intended to examine the unique character of this industry and the people involved in it: Who were the entrepreneurs, the designers and painters of the industry and what were their perceptions? What were the sources of inspiration for their creation, in form and content, and who were the consumers?
The metal industry with its forms and images - ranging from tradition Bezalel styles to Art Deco - reflects the tastes and attitudes of many groups, both established Israelis, who had a preference for characteristic Israeli images, and many holocaust survivors, who wished to find a new identity in their new country, but still held on – sometimes in secret – to the memory of their countries of origin and of Jewish life before World War II.
The volume contains dozens upon dozens of color and black and white illustrations, and text in both English and Hebrew.
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Nurith Kenaan-Kedar is Professor of Medieval Art History and former Dean of the Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University. Prof. Kenaan-Kedar has published widely on medieval art in Europe (Romanesque and marginal sculpture and the depiction of women) and on Crusader art in the Holy Land.
Her scholarly work focuses on iconography and imagery, its sources, and its role and meanings in art. She considers visual text to be a language with codes and symbols that can be deciphered.
Research into these concepts has led Kenaan-Kedar to focus on the unique iconography of the Armenian ceramics of Jerusalem and, more recently, on the forms and imagery of the metal arts and crafts industry which flourished in the first two decades of the State of Israel.
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