Gabriel Klasmer has been an active artist in Israel since the early 1970s, participating in numerous shows locally and internationally. He represented Israel in the 26th São Paulo Biennale in 1996 and was awarded the Sandberg Prize in 1990 among several other awards. He worked as a senior tutor at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and as a senior tutor at the Royal College of Art in London.
The exhibition “E F E S / 1,” which opened last month at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, is spread over three levels of the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion. Klasmer created a different experience in each level, exploring some of his diverse activities and interests.
“I want this exhibition to be experienced as a group show of one person,“ says the exhibition’s curator Ellen Ginton. “One floor is dedicated to Klasmer’s paintings in a dense and didactic survey, where painting explores the ground between abstraction and figuration, researching the monochrome as an analog act within the digital sphere (hence the title - EFES / 1 - zero / 1).” Another floor, “The Sculpture Park,” says Ginton, “is a display of sculptures, making use of cheap domestic and common materials, compressed and formed into shapes of the human figure, of body parts, impossible and ironic reminiscence of the early modernists’ sculptures.”
Ginton continues, “If the Sculpture Park is about compression – of material – the third level is about inflation, expansion, of large-scale air bubbles, membrane and atmosphere, an experience of the scale of fragility of large volumes held by almost nothing – of air itself.”
The exhibition includes a screening of the 3D video Out of Thin Air, a joint project of Gabriel and Shira Klasmer that explores time and space, as well as a selection of early paintings.
Born in Jerusalem in 1950 and now based in London, Klasmer was in Israel to present his latest show, which opened on January 23. Flanked by his large plastic and aluminum air-filled installations, representative of the fragility of the world, which can be deflated at any moment, he spoke about himself and his work.
How long did you work on this exhibition?
It took a month to ship it out and build it up. Two-thirds of this show was created here; only the paintings were brought over. Some early work was collected from collectors in Israel, and the two installations were tailor-made for the space.
You collaborated with your daughter on this exhibition. Is this the first time you worked together?
No, we have been collaborating for several years. She is a photographer, a very precise and professional photographer. It’s an easy collaboration because there is an understanding, and we do things very professionally. So it’s about performing a task.
In your view, how does the Israeli art scene compare to the international one?
I think they are very similar in many ways. Obviously, Israeli art relates a lot to Israeli issues, and identity is part of the debate and part of the issue, but I think most young local artists travel the world and want to be known to the world. I think they may bring a certain local flavor, an attitude, but I think they speak a very compatible language.
Who is someone that inspired you?
Israeli artist Moshe Gershoni. He is my friend and teacher and has definitely inspired me.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist, and what are your aspirations?
My achievement is that I have survived as an artist. It is very difficult to continue to do art because sometimes you go into difficulties because often you are in a state of crisis, and you actually work against that state of crisis if you’re working on a new thing, so you always deflate yourself to the point that you hope something else will come out. So I think one achievement is that I survived. As for my aspirations, I just want to continue to work and exhibit.
Is there any place you’ve dreamt of exhibiting?
Not really. I prefer to show among friends, so I’m happy to exhibit in Israel. It’s a lot more friendly. I’m a bit tired of showing in places where I don’t know anyone; it becomes alienating. It’s like a football player – he may be celebrated, but he’s not in his own country.
How has your artistic expression evolved over the years, taking into account your move to the UK?
It has become cooler, more gray. It has became more brain work and less emotional and less thinking. It’s almost like philosophical essays that look like art.
The writer is a graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and curator at Marrache Fine Art Jerusalem.