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More than 30 years ago I described paintings by Moshe Givati as "epic and grandiosely handsome abstractions which vaguely suggest landscape... upon entering the room the viewer is enchanted by billowing spaces that open up before him, and with a bit of imagination, is engulfed as a participant rather than as an observer... his plunge into spacial and symbolic illusions had resulted in marvelous canvases of a sprawling romantic nature."
That was 1974 and my innocence and lack of prudence undoubtedly had the best of me. Since then it appears that Givati, on his long, prolific and erratic journey to the present, has scoured the art history picture books of the late 20th century. Most of the abstracts and figurative canvases in his rambling show of paintings from 1960 to 2006 are tinged with the look and feel of others.
One can trace a fairly defined stylistic line from the lyrical handling of his New Horizons brushwork to the stimulating counterpoint compositions bonded with the scrape and scribble of Arie Aroch from the mid-1960s. He goes on to swipe ideas and a palette from the late Moshe Kupferman and undulating composite figures interacting with geometric forms from Francis Bacon, Kitaj, Uri Lifshitz and a number of Pop practitioners. And the list continues all the way to his beastly, sharply hued heads from 1985 that metaphorically address Leon Golub's descent into culture's nightmares.
The physical energy that Givati has channeled into these large canvases (there are no small or medium size works in the show), coupled with a sensitivity for composition, vivid imagination and an adequate sense of color, are primary elements that make for good painting. As Givati possesses these qualities. one might expect a more articulate body of work than this disjointed and illogically hung exhibition asserts. Its jumbled admixture hones the suggestion that he never forged a unique personal identity or took time to delve into painterly and subjective problems for any real period of time, choosing instead to jump from one mannerism to another.
Born Moshe Hacohen Wexler in Hadera in 1934, Givati, like so many young sabras at the time, took an agrarian path by joining kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim in 1951. But his life changed four years later when he began to study art with Marcel Janco at Oranim College. After marriage and saying goodbye to the collective life, he continued his studies, traveled in Europe and lived in Paris for a year. After a stint in the Ein Hod artists' village he finally settled in Haifa in 1970.
It was about then that Givati collaborated with Itzhak Danziger on the Nesher Quarry rehabilitation project by setting up a screenprint workshop to document the venture. Several colorful serigraphs and a handful of paintings devoted to this critical environmental enterprise are included in this exhibition.
Between 1974 and 1982 Givati lived in New York and virtually disappeared from the art scene. He stopped painting, set up a print shop that lasted a limited amount of time and, after moving to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, became enamored by the Lubavitcher rebbe and his court. This religious affair dissipated once he returned to a Tel Aviv studio in 1982 where he continues to work today.
The Givati exhibition is shored up by an enormous 400-page book filled with more than 220 paintings and articles by a trio of scholars (Curator Hana Kofler, Yael Bedarshi and Marc Scheps). The book and exhibition were made possible through the support of the Haim Schiff Foundation for Heritage, Culture and Art. (Tel Aviv Museum of Art, King Saul Blvd.) No closing date announced.
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