AlonKedem | Hamudi Tours
:By Dalia Levin
Alon Kedem was born in 1982 to a mother who was born in Bagdad and to a father born and raised in the Hatikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Kedem lives and works in Jerusalem. The "Hamudi" in the title of the exhibition is perhaps a first name, a last name, or a nickname charged with associations to power play, attraction and rejection, fear and humiliation. Another possible association is the "cuteness" characteristic of the Kawaii culture prevalent in animation films and Japanese toys as well as in contemporary pop art celebrating naïveté and innocence. Their characteristics are a remarkably large head in comparison to the body, eyes open wide, a high forehead and a tiny mouth and nose.
Kedem's " Hamudi " is a man, his ethnic identity is Middle Eastern or Arab, his nose is large, his hair is wiry and curly, his beard is short haired and stubby, his head is flat, and his eyes are small and set close together. Seemingly there is nothing "sweet" about him, yet he is realistic and thus evokes compassion, empathy and curiosity.
He can be interpreted as a self portrait of the artist telling his life story, our story through the aesthetic-political painting connected to country, land and place. Present and at the same time distant.
There are many more "Hamudis" in the exhibit, and every one of them represents an identity of the other, the different. All are in midst a process of integrating and disintegrating, falling apart and reconstituting themselves, deciphering their place in the expanse, adapting and appropriating themselves between inside and out, between the guard tower and minaret, between life and death.
Kedem leaves their identity unraveled and deceiving, a cross between Israeli-Middle Eastern-Arab-Muslim, affords to the viewer to mend it from the matter of Israeli daily reality. The saying "Jewish- Arab" is on the rise over the last years, especially among the young whose parents immigrated from Arab nations: It protests the belittling and blurring of their cultural roots in Israeli society and calls out to abolish the sense of shame in their heritage.
"Hamudi" is painted in a grotesque manner, exaggerated, inviting ridicule or inducing horror.
His gigantic nose reminds one of the stereotypical Jew in anti-Semitic caricatures. Yet Kedem's painting is not a caricature. He deals with contemporary questions in painting pertaining to the politics of identity, narrative and forms of representation. In the mug shot paintings which recall police facial composites, as well as in the scenery paintings – which are "background" for the journey paintings- the flat background functions as music in an action film, exacerbating the sense of suspense and horror, announcing the shrouded
(obscured) disaster at the end of the journey.
Researchers called upon to investigate the matter of "sweetness" claimed that it invites intimacy and emphasized the evolutionary advantage of babies' charm as protection against abandonment. The adverse corollary is the social rejection, the instinctive distancing we take from people who appear to lack "sweetness" in their appearance, skin color' or physique.
Kedem is a storyteller, offering a wide range of interpretations to the viewer. The "Hamudis" ride in a convoy of vintage vehicles, trucks and vans while someone observes them from the mosque or is surveying them from the watchtower. To the inquisitive eye looking down from above the "Hamudis" appear as lost shards in the expanse-bodiless, their entire world floats around them and recedes. These are the paintings of the origin and of the end, of the soul's gaze as it floats above worldly affairs.
Behind the inviting pastel palette and the ostensibly innocent stories which create a seemingly pleasant and inviting atmosphere there are under currents of sociopolitical critique.