Blonds Cry Too — Artspace Tel-Aviv (2018)

Blondes Cry Too

Curator: Tali Ben Nun

A woman needs “a room of her own”—a real and a metaphorical space, safe and nurturing, where she may shatter every binding taboo or myth, and neutralize the echoes, dictates, and expectations from the outside. Lili Cohen Prah-ya’s works may be construed not only as works created in “a room of her own,” but also as ones that function—in their amusing, wild language, which challenges familiar orders—as little rooms of her own.

Painting is the major medium identified with Cohen Prah-ya’s practice. It extends over diverse surfaces (canvas, paper, plywood, cardboard, etc.) and materials (acrylic, oil, spray paint, markers, pencils, watercolor, etc.). Of this broad and diversified painterly spectrum, the exhibition “Blondes Cry Too” formulates a fine, refined combination of drawings-paintings on paper and small ceramic objects, all of them created in the past two years, except for three prints created in the 1980s, at the outset of her artistic career.

Recognizing the limits of the material—whether paper or clay—and the way it dictates a quick and expressive work process, gave rise to a drawing language that reveals a different aspect, less immediate and familiar, in Cohen Prah-ya’s oeuvre at large. The encounter between the small sketchbooks and raw ceramic figurines, between delicate drawings on golden paper and diluted paintings on parchment paper, or between saturated paintings and drypoint prints, unearths an intimate language, somewhat childlike. Cohen Prah-ya’s works familiarize the foreign (the subconscious, the unsaid thoughts), bringing to light the latent strata of the realm of fantasy.

The title of the exhibition, “Blondes Cry Too,” meshes a hackneyed cliché and sarcastic pungency together, like an instinctual counter-response to chauvinistic sayings such as “beautiful and dumb” or “look pretty and keep your mouth shut.” The subtext embedded in the title turns on the “automatic viewer,” conjuring up two simultaneous visual images: a woman’s portrait featured in the exhibition, bearing her name, and an image of the “other blonde,” a figment of the viewer’s imagination. In the gap between the real and the imaginary, Cohen Prah-ya encapsulates a subjective experience of “deconstructed” femininity comprised of a set of differences and antitheses to beauty myths and social-cultural stereotypes. She strives to remove the metaphoric barrier between what appear to be antithetical worlds, and fuse them into one another to form a single new entity.

Cohen Prah-ya’s work explores the language of painting-drawing, harnessing it into sculptural materiality. The reduction and laconicism of this language, as well as the adherence to the primal material, lay the objects bare, making it possible to observe them in their raw, pre-rational state. The raw quality and ostensible “artlessness” of the ceramic objects turn out to be powerful. The aesthetic value embodied in the material awkwardness corresponds with the direct “inarticulate” drawn line concealed in the small sketchbooks. The internal dialogue between the verbal and the visual, between object and metaphor, between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, sheds light on little, human moments that have been frozen. The conceptual and aesthetic syntax developing between the paper works and the ceramic objects accentuates the ostensibly antithetical qualities embedded in the works: frugal drawing versus vivid coloration, transparency versus opaqueness, traces of the artist’s touch on the material versus traces of inner voices which make their way into the drawing-painting. These contrasts spawn a broad range of feelings and states of mind: love, fantasy, pain, and beauty alongside embarrassment, silence, weakness, and self-irony.

Thus, in the transition from paper to clay, the intricate dissonance between the repressed-trapped and the overt-lucid is gradually exposed. Cohen Prah-ya stretches the line between that which is “proper” and may be revealed and that which should be kept hidden and silenced, airing the shame in the open.

The text concealed in the drawing-painting is a blend of internal dialogue, jokes, and associations elicited by widespread expressions: “blondes cry too,” “unsociable on the bus,” “mom doesn’t hug,” “organized tour,” “constantly having to save you.”

The conspicuous presence of the written word in Cohen Prah-ya’s works becomes a funnel of the subconscious, of the inner voice. The shut eyes, as in sleep, represent being indrawn and introspective, as the words go on, insisting on “bombarding” the silence. Language covers up the shame, but at the same time also exposes it, offering a possibility of resounding hearing or reading, the same old expression whose sounds (may also be) different.

The female body in Cohen Prah-ya’s works, and the image of the woman in general, is revealed as an arena of twisted and sensual conflicts, feminine power which envelops contradictions and secrets. Life experience and the signs of age, traces of a broken heart, longing, erotic yearning, memories which refuse to dissipate, and primordial fears are all recorded; all of them are discernible on the body as if the soul were tattooed on the skin.