Raffi Lavie, Head, 1992, oil on plywood
Episodes from the Past
Raffi Lavie (1937-2007) who was born in Ramat Gan, lived and worked in Tel Aviv all his life. Much has been said and written about Lavie's connection to Tel Aviv, both in the sense of his aesthetics and in respect to the essence of his art, which is secular, untamed and provocative. His paintings on plywood and on paper formulate aesthetics of a peeling wall and children's paintings, and surprisingly come together to form a new kind of sensibility: with a wink and a nod to the history of art and traditional concepts of beauty, with awareness to culture, or rather - to the distance from culture. Over the years, the combination of all these became one of the most resounding and distinctive expressions of Israeli art, and of course, of Tel Avivite art.
Henry Shelesnyak (1938-1980) was born in New York and came to Israel with his family when he was 13. His father worked at the Weizmann Institute and the family lived in Rehovot. Later on, Shelesnyak studied in London and lived in Ein Hod, and from 1966 to his death he lived and worked in Tel Aviv, and was even identified with the art that emerged in the city in those years. There is some irony in the fact that Shelesnyak - an American, with a completely different cultural background from the Israeli artists of his generation - is exhibited here as a Tel Avivite artist. His physical and intellectual biography is far more convoluted and complex than the 14 years he had lived in Tel Aviv, although there is little doubt that these were the years of flowering and the peak of his art, before his premature death. Alongside his obvious grouping with Raffi Lavie and Yair Garbuz, Shelesnyak brought to the Tel Aviv collage singular sophistication and refinement saturated with residues of a faraway culture and charged with darkness and morbidity.
Yehezkel Streichman (1906-1993) was born in Kovno, Lithuania, and immigrated to Israel in 1924. In the following decade he studied at Bezalel, as well as in Paris and Florence, returned to his hometown and immigrated to Israel yet again in 1936, after which he lived most of his life in Tel Aviv. He was among the founders of Ofakim Hadashim ("New Horizons") and is considered one of the fathers of Israeli Modern art. Over the years he taught at the Avni Institute and in a studio he opened together with Avigdor Stematsky, and his influence as a teacher permeated the art of many of his students. Streichman's painting originates in the observation of nature, and shifts between the figurative and the typical abstraction of Israeli painting of his generation - in terms of color palette, preference of mass over line, lyricism and affinity to French art. The painting featured in the exhibition belongs to the collection of the Haifa Museum of Art and constitutes a typical example of Streichman's painting style in the 1950s: the subject matter is classic - a recumbent woman, although at first glance the figure is barely recognizable, and disappears into the masses of paint which generate a sense of landscape rather than a body. The hues are murky, the color palette is rich, the canvas is swarming and brimming with events.