Capturing the Germans

The current retrospective show of wonderful Moses prints is aptly entitled Deutsche Vita.

Stefan Moses 88 (photo credit: )
Stefan Moses 88
(photo credit: )
German photographer Stefan Moses (b. 1928) is an heir of sorts to both August Sander, the documenter of pre-war Germans of every class and profession, and also to Irving Penn, who gave us decades of North and South Americans posed before a sheet in the studio. The current retrospective show of wonderful Moses prints at the Jerusalem Artists House, courtesy of the Goethe Institute, is aptly entitled Deutsche Vita. In it, working class Germans and gastarbeiter (guest workers) in pairs or trios are set in endearingly roguish poses before that large grubby sheet, often giggling into the camera or looking suitably solemn. There are no background distractions, but their expressions and clothing tell their story. Some painters however, are photographed clowning in their studios. Arch-poseur Josef Beuys poses next to his works. There's a telling closeup of Ludwig Erhard and the ax-like face of Konrad Adenauer. On the other hand, the aging intelligentsia, some in hiking dress, are photographed in Germanic woodland glades redolent of the good old days of the wandervogel, the popular German youth group movement of the early 20th century. The only jarring note is struck by Willy Brandt, a slick pol in a jazzy suit, out of place in the bushes. Sander, I must say, never stooped to feeding class contrasts (of which there were many in his Germany.) Decades ago, Stefan Moses made visits to Israel on press assignments, and photographed both Jewish and Arab children. Stefan Moses' father, lawyer Kurt Moses, drowned in a canoeing accident before Stefan was a year old. The boy was brought up by his mother (who evidently was not Jewish) in Breslau. Being classed a mischling (of mixed ancestry), he was kicked out of his Aryan high school when he was 15. Many mischlings died in concentration camps, while a few managed to enlist in the Wehrmacht or were used as flak volunteers (a few mischling senior officers with imperial decorations were actually Aryanized by Hitler.) In 1944 Moses was interned in a labor camp, from which he later escaped. Friends got him a position as a photographer's assistant and thus launched him on a many-sided career. The words Jew and mischling are coyly absent from his family chronology. Don't miss this show. Most of it is riveting. ALSO AT this venue are two shows of figurative painting. Bezalel graduate Alex Tubis came here from Russia when he was 12. His oils of figures in interiors are quite without texture or paint character, as walls, windows, textiles and flesh are all flatly painted in the same manner. The few oil sketches are poor. Rivka Sassover Peled (b. Israel, 1952), a Bezalel graduate who now teaches there, shows portraits of artists, students and friends that lack both a point of view and a decisive color harmony. Down in the entrance gallery, young Eynav Raz shows engagingly bright Pop-style paintings of things not good for you, like cigarettes and drink, all cleanly well-rendered. Her gallery mate,Yeella Ebner, has a surrealist installation made of Red Bull cans and rubber tubing, its message more telling than any of its formal attributes. Her small floor-to-wall pieces are too derivative of Robert Gober. (All shows until April 14).