Moshe Kupferman / Gateskeeper
May 25 – Jul 08, 2017
Curated by Nicola Trezzi together with Adi Dahan, Sivan Elirazi, Rachel Frumkin, Sivan Lavie, Eti Levi, Shelly Reich, Shirel Safra and Lior Shahar, MFA Students of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem
Some time ago Irit Sommer and I met and discussed the work of Moshe Kupferman, his leading role in the history of Israeli art and his unique contribution to the field of visual art, especially within the language of painting. Many individuals in the field of art were intrigued by Kupferman’s uncorrupted way of life and work, featured today in collections of institutions such as those of the MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan in New York, as well as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the British Museum in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the LACMA in Los Angeles, among others. And yet, even with this impressive presence, we feel the young generation of artists is not familiar enough with this legendary figure and knows Kupferman only from books on Israeli art history.
We drove to Kupferman’s estate together, located at the even more legendary “Ghetto Fighters” kibbutz, where we met his granddaughter Roni who is keeping her grandfather’s legacy alive within this unique premises of one the few kibbutz still not privatized. This visit allowed for an intimate encounter with Kupferman’s works and studio (which is kept as sort of a time capsule).
During this time I was also lucky enough to meet Superkit’s Yael and Eran Ezra who convinced the owners of the Fila/Maimeri group – which products Superkit distributes in Israel – to sponsor a project focused on the medium of painting, which is open to the MFA and BFA students in the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design Jerusalem. While participants in the first round of this project were guided by the New Barbizon, the current group is under the guidance of artist Gil Marco Shani, myself and several guests, while focusing on the notion of expanded painting, meaning painting beyond its geographical and linguistic limits. Within these premises, the visit to Kupferman’s estate and my discussions with Irit made Kupferman’s spirit a perfect inspiration for the current chapter of this project.
This was a dream that came true last weekend thanks to the support of Sommer Contemporary Art. Under the punctual organization of Sommer’s Exhibition Manager Alvit Sharvit, a small group of participants – artists Adi Dahan, Sivan Elirazi (who took the photo for the invitation), Rachel Frumkin (who translated this text into Hebrew), Sivan Lavie, Eti Levi, Shelly Reich, Shirel Safra and Lior Shahar and myself (together with my wife Alexandra and daughter Aviva) – spent a weekend in the kibbutz. We slept there, ate our meals together and most importantly, watched, discovered, discussed and pondered the incredible, vast and multifaceted work of Moshe Kupferman.
The current exhibition is a result of this encounter. Roni guided us through the estate, from the studio to the collection, from there to the video documentary, to the gallery and eventually to the actual estate and work storage. I served as a type of mediator in this visit, trying to find a thread that will connect the different voices in order to bring them together harmoniously. However, the credit belongs to the artists in the group. They shared their thoughts and opinions with each other and created a strong and balanced dialogue that fits the gallery’s project space perfectly.
The participants started with an idea of presenting Kuperman’s drawings unframed. We started to review different periods in his oeuvre, including times when his works were made mostly using newspaper pages, as well as his famous series known as “The Scrolls”. As we started digging deeper into the archive, we realized that these works, made on recycled paint boxes and discarded cardboard pieces, were the kind of work we wanted for this exhibition. Painterly, but definitely in an expanded manner; mature and yet undeniably juvenile; full of integrity – like all works by Kupferman – but funky as no other he ever made. We scattered the works on the floor and started to play with them as if they were notes on a pentagram, or Ikebana flowers.
I think this exhibition is a miracle. It encapsulates the efforts of so many people and at the same time it never forgets the most important issue at stake: a desire to celebrate the work of Moshe Kupferman – from his notable paintings to those almost unknown and apparently never-shown-before, “the cardboard works”.
Through this action, we – everyone involved in this project – became gatekeepers of Kupferman’s legacy, apostles of his work, narrators of his achievements, admirers of his integrity and devotion. While we leave the kibbutz we are all aware that a journey together has only just begun, a journey, which fruits we want to partake with you.
Nicola Trezzi, Jaffa, May 16, 2017
* The term “gatekeeper” was given by the artist to a group of objects he would find on the ground while wandering in the kibbutz and collect as sources of inspirations for his paintings and drawings.