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The Art of Merging Reality, Virtual Reality

Artist Etty Yaniv's exhibit is highlighted in Monmouth Museum's Emerging Artist Series on the Brookdale Community College campus

Etty Yaniv’s compelling pen and collage drawings look, from a distance, like line drawn abstracts, but they contain fractured images from the digital world that you can see when you get closer to them.   

Her solo exhibition at the Monmouth Museum on the Brookdale Community College Campus, Lincroft, features drawings on paper of objects from Yaniv’s domestic and work environment, plus text from the media and internet.

What she calls her "choreographed mindscapes" are created by running her everyday existence through her imagination and reimagining her life and life in general, through a different prism.

"In my recent drawings on paper, objects gradually disintegrate, conflict or bimorph into diagrams of organisms ranging from body parts, obscure microscopic life, or multiplied motion lines of my restless cat," the artist said. "They merge over time with fragmented objects in my domestic environment and transcribed text from radio streaming and Google searches."

The artist, who is exhibiting at the Museum as part of the Emerging Artist Series, said, "I aim to bridge or negotiate the constant barrage of digital information with the physical and mental space I am in. At the end of the day, my work is about observing and deciphering the everyday, while longing for human communication that is meaningful."

Although this exhibition focuses on her drawings and collage, she is not constrained by this form. In addition to drawing, she paints and creates installations, as well as photographs and video.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, she has lived in Alpine, New Jersey since the early 1990s. Yaniv is very aware of how much the information technology age is influencing people’s lives. "With blogs, text messages, virtual social networks, feeds, twits and widgets, the information that we get through communication technology increasingly becomes inseparable from our lives," she said.

As a result, she feels compelled to investigate how people interact with the flood of technology based information day to day. "This is what interests me most in these drawings," Yaniv said. "Finding the human essence, the personal, the unique, behind the generic, the banal, is central throughout all my work."

Yaniv uses hand-made marks — writing, doodling, gesturing and diagramming — within her images. "While I am channeling this world of information through personal vision, one of my key challenges is to invite viewers to find unexpected connections within their own experiences," she said.

Influenced by many diverse and eclectic elements of art history, cinema, literature, music, language, mythology, science and technology, the artist sees her work as a reflection of noted surrealists intertwined with expressionists of the 1970s and 80s era.

"Within art historical tradition, I can trace my roots with Dadaists and surrealists such as Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Andre Masson; and later expressionists who dealt with socio-political narratives in the 70s and 80s, such as Nancy Spero, or Philip Guston," she said.

She noted that one of her favorite all time artists is Saul Steinberg, whose 1976 cover for The New Yorker magazine, View of the World from 9th Avenue, shows Manhattan streets juxtaposed below simplified drawings of the rest of the world. Steinberg created nearly 90 New Yorker covers and more than 1,200 drawings, but he is also known for working in many media.

"I love his witty social commentary," Yaniv said, adding that she finds affinity with artists who reflect the times by inventing personal narratives.

But she was also influenced by her mother. "She was a medical doctor, so I grew up with a big library filled with Russian anatomy books," she explained. "You can see sometimes strange organisms creeping into my imagery along with some Cyrillic alphabet."

Yaniv said she was also influenced by two of her teachers at the Parson’s School of Design in New York City. One of her most favorite teachers at Parsons was Bob Andrew Parker.

"He is an amazing watercolorist and draftsman. I learned a lot from him," she said. "My first mentor before art school is Danny Kerman, a brilliant artist, writer and illustrator from Israel. He encouraged me to fly free with my hand and imagination.”

She explained that she likes to work in series and likens it to variations on a theme.  For example, she said, the series of drawings at the Monmouth Museum is part of a year-long time based project she named Streaming.

"I started by listening to streaming talk radio, while drawing with pen, graphite, washes and some collage fragments of objects in my home," Yaniv said. "These objects emerge from different vantage points: basic craft tools such as scissors, white out and latex gloves juxtapose with technology items like cables, computer icons and cell phones. Text enters the work simultaneously with the images. Whether carefully written or half erased, the multi-lingual texts I transcribe from American and Israeli media become an integral part of these choreographed mindscapes."

She explained that the departure point in all of her work is typically drawing from life. "There is always this tricky balance between stream of consciousness, which involves chance, spontaneity; and control, which involves composition, content," Yaniv said. "In this particular project, since the drawing responds to spoken language in real time, the decision making was instantaneous and unforgiving, especially in pen. It is important for me to leave all the marks visible, with erasures, errors, and drips. The process of drawing and writing reveals an active search for meaning. It’s like an archeological excavation, where you see in front of you one layer of artifacts, but when you keep digging, you discover that there are many layers underneath.

"Sometimes," she said, "the search itself becomes the narrative."

Yaniv became aware of the Emerging Artist Series when she read about it on line.  She sent an application and was accepted. "I loved working with the people there (Monmouth Museum)," she said. "It’s really inspiring to find such a dedicated group. Programs like that are so vital for artists, especially in this harsh economy, when funding for the arts is dwindling."

A cerebral artist, she holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and English Literature from Tel Aviv University, a bachelor of fine arts degree from Parsons School of Design, NYC and she is getting her master's of fine arts degree from Suny Purchase in 2011.

Her work has been printed in publications such as The New York Times, Village Voice, Newsday Magazine and The Nation. During the past year, she exhibited in galleries and museums including City without Walls, Aljira, Montclair State fine arts museum, Farleigh Dickenson University, Dolly Maass Gallery, Purchase, NY, and White Box, NYC.

In April and May, she was in a group show at Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.

The New Jersey Emerging Artists Series at the Monmouth Museum is an ongoing program featuring six exhibitions held each year, each representing six new artists working in a wide range of media.

Besides the opportunity to exhibit their work, each artist is required to present a gallery talk sometime during the run of the show. Yaniv’s gallery talk will be held on Aug. 10 between 7 and 8 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

For additional information and directions to the museum, call 732-747-2266, or visit www.monmouthmuseum.org.

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