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Israeli art of the s and early s shows yet another attempt at nearing universal contemporary artistic trends. Three main currents were commonly practiced during these years: Op art, Minimalism and Pop art. At the same time, the leading style in contemporary Israeli canon was still abstract art. Israeli artists who adhered to the other leading contemporary styles produced significant artifacts that expressed their fascinating searches in an attempt to implement universal concepts and ideas to Israeli locality.
The Israeli government was very supportive of Minimalist art that was abstract and commissioned works for official monuments and public sculptures throughout Israel during this period. Pop Art appeared simultaneously in Britain and in the United States in the s as an artistic reaction against Abstract Expressionism. First and foremost, Pop artists dealt with contents and issues typical of Western consumer society in a witty, critical approach. Implementation of Pop principles into Israeli culture was expressed by Israeli artists in criticizing particular Israeli social and ecological issues and as early expressions of political protest.
These first artistic attempts at protest were welcomed neither by the Israeli art establishment nor by the Israeli political establishment. They would become stronger in a different art current — Conceptual Art — that would become the absolute style in the Israeli art field of the late s and early s.
The intellectual aspect of Conceptual Art gave Israeli artists a cause for celebration. Written texts are also an integral and significant component of Conceptualism. Israeli artists incorporated texts into their artworks in Hebrew , catering to the Israeli public, and in English to appeal to international audiences.
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The traditional claim that Judaism is a textual, verbal culture, made a perfect fit for Conceptualism. This generation of Israeli artists took advantage of Western principles of Conceptual Art and transformed them into an investigation of themes, issues and local Jewish-Israeli principles as well as new, secular references to Jewish tradition, accompanied by a tinge of protest and criticism. In contrast to Earth Art produced in the United States during the late s, conceived as dealing with utopian, cosmic and metaphysical ideas, as part of the struggle for contemporary definition of alternative spaces for the traditional museum institution, the Earth in Israel is conceived as a national myth.
Israeli Earth art works of the s were infused with political aspects since they touch upon the roots of Jewish-Israeli existence. Israeli Adamah Earth or soil is linked to Zionist concepts and ideas that attribute mythical aspects to every earth clod throughout the country's borders. This theme is best expressed in works by Micha Ulman and Yitzchak Danziger. The status of Israeli art was transformed in the s from being considered on the lowest rung of the art field's hierarchical ladder, beneath Hebrew fiction and poetry, theater and music, to a much higher and more prestigious realm.
One of the reasons for this shift was that Conceptual Art was more intellectual. The image of young Israeli artists of the s and s — most of whom were native Israelis — changed tremendously thanks to two parallel factors:. The question of which institution was more avant-garde is less important than the fact that young Israeli artists who graduated from both institutions showed growing familiarity with theories, abstract concepts and universal cultural traditions, areas that were not so close at hand for veteran Israeli artists.
All these components contributed to the creation of an art that was founded on contemporary universal values that were transformed in certain cases into themes, issues and subjects that shared common Israeli characteristics Jewish and non-Jewish. Israeli artists express a variety of themes in their work, but the four most common are unique to Israeli culture :. Up until the s, references to the Holocaust were extremely rare, a phenomenon that is parallel to the general repression of dealing with the Holocaust by most strata of Jewish-Israeli society.
Works by artists who Holocaust survivors were hardly made public through art exhibitions during the s and s.
The first references to the Holocaust in appeared in abstract works of survivor Moshe Kupferman and the expressionistic drawings and etchings by Osias Hofstatter and Moshe Bernstein. Other influential Israeli artworks with references to the Holocaust came from the second generation of survivors, such as Hayim Ma'or. References to the Holocaust in 20th century art were made by artists — Jewish and non-Jewish — throughout the world and, therefore, those made by Israeli artists were not unique.
However, Israeli artworks were distinguished by the Zionist idea that linked the Holocaust with Jewish heroism. Jewish-Israeli soldiers of the newly formed Israeli army were conceived as descendants of Jewish ghetto fighters who personally experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. The most self-explicatory expression of this theme is the Mordechai Anilewicz Memorial at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai which honors the commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The theme of war first appears in artworks created during and after the War.
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They dealt mainly with the results of war, i. Years later, in the late s, shortly after the Six-Day War of , Israeli artists referred to the Israeli military by expressing their conception of its mistreatment of the civilian Palestinian population. Thus, in less than two decades, Israeli artists observing their country at war shifted their focus from laments to using their art as a means of political protest. The Hebrew language is the most significant, direct and clear expression of Jewish-Israeli local identity; it is one of the most significant expressions of the new, secular Hebrew Israeli culture.
One of the Hebrew language's visual expressions is the Hebrew alphabet. Since the beginning of the 20th century it became the subject of many Jewish artists and designers, who worked laboriously on expanding its uses and shaping new and improved designs for it. The general aim was to adapt Hebrew typography for modern uses. The development and improvement of Hebrew typography gained momentum during the British mandate. For the first time in the modern era, the Hebrew alphabet was used for widespread communication, a phenomenon unique to this Jewish culture, as opposed to that in the Diaspora where Hebrew was not used as an everyday language.
Since the s, the development of Hebrew typography became a preoccupation of Jewish artists and designers. One of the challenges they faced was to meet the growing demand for new type-faces with greater legibility. The Hebrew language is also expressed in Israeli art by the inclusion of short texts in paintings and sculptures. Various Israeli artists, such as Michael Sgan-Cohen, Drora Domini, Hila Lulu-Lin and David Tartakover, dedicate their works to visual expressions of the Hebrew language, especially concerning themselves with meta-language manifestations such as visual renderings of Hebrew expressions, puns, double meanings, idioms and proverbs.
Israeli artists often struggle with their identity as Israelis and Jews.
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They typically feel a part of Jewish tradition even while some have little or no affinity for Judaism. In some cases, their references to Jewish traditions and symbolism are expressed in quasi-rebellious ways that challenge rabbinical tradition concerning Jewish rituals and ceremonies.
Another phenomenon in this overall approach to examining Jewish identity is expressed in a re-examination of Zionist concepts and myths. Israeli artists refer to a rich array of Zionist visual images that have turned into icons of popular Israeli culture and put changes in them. Consequently, they create artifacts that convey clear communicative messages of myth shattering; at times they ridicule the myth or, in contrast, lament the fact that it has become merely a nostalgic memory. Within the overall phenomenon of self-examination of their Jewish-Israeli identity, certain Israeli artists express, through their introvert observations, issues of ethnic identity within the multiple facets of Israeli society.
This paper, like most historiography of Israeli art , from until today, focuses on the part played by Jewish-Israeli artists, despite the fact that many non-Jews have also contributed to the field. Download our mobile app for on-the-go access to the Jewish Virtual Library. The History of Zionism. Yishuv: Jewish Community in Mandate Palestine. The Partition of Palestine. To all, while Jewishness and being Jewish is integral to their art practice, most do not belong to a Jewish congregation nor regularly practice the faith.
While their art practices are diverse and wide ranging, more than half of those artists interviewd have, for varying periods of time, reflected the Holocaust in their practice. While it is not the intention of this essay to focus on whether Holocaust-related art is more or less prevalent in New Zealand today, it should be noted that some research from the USA suggests it is there. That same researcher suggests that "remembering the Holocaust" may be a substitute for active participation in Jewish life which may also be true of our own sub-set of New Zealand artists. The word implies a 'them' and 'us' -Jews and non-Jews.
Philosopher Shaye Cohen says this dualistic view of the world was not formed in the ghettos of Europe nor as a response to anti-Judaism as many contend but had already existed in antiquity 3. Rabbinic literature is "filled" with such statements that contrast 'Israel' with 'the nations' when there was no simple definition for a Jew apart from someone from Judea. Then, almost anyone could join the 'group' and call themselves Jewish.
It was only much later, through its rabbinical law makers, that Judaism defined their conversion standards. He argues that Jews then, were an ethnic group - named, attached to a specific territory Judea , with a shared sense of origin, a feeling of uniqueness and solidarity, a common history and some distinctive characteristics - the most outstanding of which was the way in which they worshipped their God. Cohen argues that the uncertainty of Jewishness is the same today as it was in antiquity adding that it is also not unique. Of the nine New Zealand artists interviewed for this essay none focussed their practice wholly on their Jewishness, though all but one had done so at some stage of their career.
For those that did, one facet of Jewish history stood out: the Holocaust. It is, or had been, a significant motivator for six of the artists, with many having close personal links to tragedies, loss, escape and death. James Young describes the Holocaust as something many artists are unable to relate to as pure historical fact, rather than "experience". For these artists know the facts of history never 'stand' on the own - but are always supported by the reasons for recalling such facts in the first place.
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She is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor: her mother was taken by Russians to a camp in Siberia and ended the war an orphan. She and her sister were located by an uncle living in Israel who eventually adopted them and brought them there. She is currently working on an animated film comparing her family's life in pre-war Warsaw with their current south Pacific lifestyle. It explores the peaks and troughs of life - and working through grief. Still from Miriam Harris animation movie Soaring, roaring, diving.
Photograph provided by Mike Regan. If your world changes, your paintings change. Your hand, changed by heart and mind, goes at its tasks in new ways Like may Jews he can trace his family roots to the Pale of Settlements - that strip of Eastern Europe which spanned the borders of present-day Poland, Ukariane, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova and parts of western Russia where more than three million Jews were confined. The family mixed in artistic circles counting Graeme Sutherland, Jacob Epstein and Picasso's dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, among their close friends.
Soltes writes that Jews poured into Paris before WWI because they particularly found the Paris art scene attractive, in that for once they could be "outsiders, not Jews, but as artists romantically misunderstood by the world around them". While Noah says his Jewish identity is "very strong", his parents enjoyed an assimilated lifestyle and his Jewishness, he says, "had never been imprinted by that kabalastic map of the universe".
But from a circumstantial point of view being Jewish made an enormous difference to me as a painter".
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Printmaker Jule Einhorn's parents scraped in just prior to the war due largely to her father's Helmut architectural skills and reputation - and the assistance of friend and economist Wolfgang Rosenberg, Helmut and his wife Ester were greeted with enthusiasm by the Jewish community but they shunned the connection. While Ester was not Jewish, Helmut was and he was determined that Judaism would play no part in their new lives, despite maintaining close friendships with the small and tightly-knit group of European Jewish refugees resident in Wellington - many of whom had close ties to the Jewish congregation.
Jule can not recall any links to Judaism in the house apart from the food they ate and enjoyed. She recalls a lovely childhood but always felt like an "outsider". However, both her parents she believes were "traumatised" by the Holocaust and the fate of their families in Berlin.
Only a few of her art works reflect her Jewish roots, including Mezuzah, which she created to affirm life and protection, and Einhorn, depicting a unicorn in front of the foreboding forest near Theresienstadt to which she believes her grandparents were taken and murdered. Other works, she says, reflect her sense of isolation and 'otherness' but are imbued with her Jewishness.
If I wasn't Jewish my art would be different. The Holocaust was barely discussed in the Einhorn house - a not uncommon -, phenomenon for post-war children who often learnt more through media and discussions with peers. Textile artist Helen Schamroth tells a similar story. Her parents refused to discuss the Holocaust nor reveal their miraculous escapes. Like Jule and her sister. Helen and hers picked up scraps of information but says they have only built an incomplete picture. For Helen buttons and scraps of material have been part of her life since she was a toddler in their one-room apartment in post-war Melbourne.
Then at night she would cut off the buttons and the next day give me the same handkerchief and buttons to start all over again.
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She had to amuse me. So I learnt to sew at a very young age. While Helen's art practice was dominated by finely worked textile pieces, it was only relatively recently that they have reflected her Judaism and her family's Holocaust background. The change occurred after she had seen one of her mother's last art works - a series of panels created for her Melbourne temple called 'From creation to redemption'.
One panel made specific reference to the Holocaust. Helen's mother's work on a Melbourne Temple. Helen said she was "stunned" when she first saw it and asked why she was doing it. If mum could do it, then so could I. The original comprised a black chimney-like structure made of cardboard rising like an ominous shadow over a partially obscured Magen David visible through a rent in the horizontal part of the structure. It was later selected - and remade in archival materials - to be part of the Holocaust Room at the Auckland War Memorial Museum together with another work - 'Honouring the dead' - comprising ten miniature, religiously-exact, prayer shawls made from silk, tattered and with burnt edges.
When Hitler threatened to annex Austria her father fled to Holland while Gerda and her mother managed to bypass Holland and go directly to the UK. After the war her father, having been held in two concentration camps, The Museum's own exhibition booklet asks some of the hard questions:. To what extent may artists overstep the bounds of taste in confronting facts that are outrageous and terrifying? Meanwhile, Eli Weisel described Auschwitz as "the other side of life" and that only those who lived in it "can possibly transform their experience into knowledge.
Others, despite their best intentions, can never do so. He implores such creators to "listen to the survivors and respect their wounded sensibility". Feinstein suggests that it is "a perfectly human thing to indulge in art, even art that involves violent and grotesque subjects" and that "art should be recognised as a major and integral part of the transaction that engenders social behaviour ".
Keeping the memory alive is certainly part of the problem but for many Jewish artists just talking about the Holocaust is difficult. It was such an unbelievable event it is almost impossible to put into words. Helene Carroll's paintings are replete with motifs and symbols alluding to the Holocaust, loss and Jewish tradition as she delves into her family's history.
Her vibrant paintings mix the joyous and the bleak, frequently referring to her parents' dreadful wartime experiences where they and her mother's father were the only family members to survive Hitler's carnage. They met in Tarnow ghetto and were married just three weeks later before being separated and sent to different camps.
They met again in Tarnow after liberation, where they were made very unwelcome by the locals. Seeking a haven, they journeyed through Czechoslovakia, Germany and Paris -where Helene was born - en route to New Zealand. Although the family identified as Jewish they didn't attend synagogue or have any formal connections. Nevertheless they celebrated the occasional festival and sometimes lit candles on a Friday night.
Here too, the Holocaust was barely discussed. He couldn't or wouldn't. He had the most dreadful nightmares, My mother tried to tell it with a humorous take. Reading filled in the gaps. This is what make me, me. These are my particular marks. Helene's bride reminds her of Marc Chagall's dreamy floating figures.