Israeli artist depicts pain of rootless Jews in Berlin exhibition

Tue Sep 16, 2014 8:52am EDT
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By Helen Cahill

BERLIN (Reuters) - Moshe Gershuni's expressive, historically loaded art, which places symbols of the Holocaust in a religious setting and seeks to polarize opinion about current Israeli society, seems unlikely to reward the casual viewer.

Titled "No Father No Mother", the retrospective of paintings and ceramics since 1979 in the New National Gallery is the first solo show by an Israeli artist to be opened at Berlin's premier location for modern art.

The focus is especially poignant in Germany, where a Jewish population of over half a million in 1933 was annihilated in the Holocaust, with just 30,000 surviving by 1945.

"His paintings evoke haunting, even oppressive notions of rootlessness and detachment connected with the horrors and atrocities of the 20th century or with the diaspora," said Udo Kittelman, director of the New National Gallery.

Born into a Polish-Jewish family that emigrated to Tel Aviv in 1936, Gershuni is one of Israel's most renowned artists, with work in New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Britain.

Crawling on paper-covered floors and painting with his hands, he invests physically and emotionally in his art - and unlocking its power often calls for a gaze that is equally intense.

The Jewish star of David, the Nazis' swastika and Islam's star and crescent appear side by side amid colorful flower-like forms, phallic symbols and Hebrew script.

Created using thick glass paint and industrial varnish, the vibrant colors of his political and religious motifs appear almost luminous.   Continued...

A visitor watches the painting "Untiled" by Israeli artist Moshe Gershuni during the opening of his solo exhibition in Berlin September 12, 2014. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch