A painter who begins abstractly at the end

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art presents an exhibition of works by artist Hagit Lalo who died in 1961 at the age of 29.

Painting by Hagit Lalo (photo credit: COURTESY LALO FAMILY COLLECTION)
Painting by Hagit Lalo
On show at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art through October 5 is the first comprehensive exhibition of works by the late Hagit Lalo (1931-1961), a forerunner of abstract expressionism in Israel. The exhibition, entitled “A Painter who Begins at the End,” references Lalo’s approach to art, having never shifted from figurative to abstract painting and instead beginning directly with the abstract, which according to the perception of modern painting at the time was regarded as “the end.” The exhibition explores the complicated path and short yet prolific career of the young artist.
When entering the exhibition, visitors literally begin at the end of the artist’s life and career. The first work seen when walking into the exhibition space is the last work completed by Lalo, which was left on the easel in her studio before her death.
“She was only 29. And this is also where the difficulty lies in trying to isolate Hagit and her unique artistic process,” said the exhibition’s curator, Noa Rosenberg. “She was so young in terms of historical time; it is like the flap of a butterfly’s wings on the history of Israeli art.”
Nevertheless, even the slightest flutter can change the course of history, and Lalo’s short career left lasting impressions on the Israeli art scene. According to Yona Fischer, one of Israel’s most revered curators and a close friend of the artist, “She brought a style of her very own with her, a different kind of expressionism. The prevalent style in Israel at the time was the so-called lyrical abstraction, which drew primarily on Parisian trends.”
The artist’s distinct perspective and avant-garde approach was largely influenced by her time in the US.
Lalo left Israel at age 19 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied art and received an excellence grant to continue with her masters, which she completed with honors. Lalo was then awarded a scholarship to the Hans Hoffman School of Fine Arts in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she excelled creatively and exhibited in group shows.
Following her return to Israel eight years later she participated in several group shows and had solo exhibitions at Rina Gallery and Katz Gallery, which were considered leading galleries at the time.
Even so, Lalo felt that she did not receive the same praise and adoration in Israel as she had in the US.
When the artist took her own life at 29 it came as a shock to her friends and family; Lalo never let on to her true suffering. Having returned to Israel from studies in the US, Lalo often said (according to her sister Ziva Friedman), “In America they welcomed me with open arms, but in my own country I was rejected.”
The tragic irony of the situation is that Lalo “was among the few female artists of her generation who was not only given an overwhelming majority of favorable reviews, but was also considered, in her entry into the local art field, the leader of a process unprecedented in Israel” said Rosenberg.
For more info on the exhibit visit of www.tamuseum.org.il.