(photo credit: SHAHAF HABER)

Artist Avner Levinson opens a new exhibition in Tel Aviv


Avner Levinson’s exhibition, Back to the Source, now at the Sheetrit & Wolf Gallery in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood, features dozens of small sculptures, large head protomes, exposed and vulnerable figures, alongside black and white figure drawings.

His statues have no names. They are everybody and nobody, at the same time.

“I am not looking for a physical resemblance to anyone specific,” says Levinson. “I try to reach the innermost layers, the essence of the figure. I do not look at, say a leg, anatomically, I do not try to make it beautiful, I try to investigate how the leg moves from an inner place to the space, to see how the drawing works. In that sense, it can be a portrait or still life as well.”

Who is Avner Levinson?

The 42-year-old Levinson – a sculptor, sketcher, and painter – studied and worked in New York between 2005 and 2013. A native of Jerusalem, he exhibits in Israel and the United States, and teaches and lectures in various places. In addition, he is one of the owners of the Maya Gallery in Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Hamelacha neighborhood, and as well as the nearby Atelier School of Art, where he also teaches.

He mainly deals with human forms and the delicate balance between the physical and the spiritual. He works in a variety of materials such as clay, papier-mache, bronze, and gypsum.

 AVNER LEVINSON presents ‘Back to the Source.’ (credit:  Liat Elbling)
AVNER LEVINSON presents ‘Back to the Source.’ (credit: Liat Elbling)

“In these sculptures, I focused on the small, on the human, as part of honestly dealing with big questions about the human spirit,” says the artist a few hours before the opening of his new show.

Levinson’s clay sculptures do not fawn, they do not try to be “beautiful.” They attempt to capture an elusive truth, with integrity and honesty.

“My process in creating these sculptures is very free and open. These are not preparation drawings. I draw in order to understand the space, the plasticity, and the volume. I deal with the language of art in both sculpture and drawings,” he reflects.

His human and personal fingerprint penetrates deep into the material. Each figure begins with a vague reflection, a thought that becomes clearer in the dynamic work process.

“I start with an idea. I usually work with clay. I do not prepare a base but the whole work is in clay, so my sculptures are extremely heavy, sometimes more than a ton,” he says apologetically. “But this grants me a lot of freedom to come back to the work and work on it, again and again.

“I start from a certain position, and it changes as I work. The process, the changes, interest me. [It’s a] journey I take with the figures.”

Not necessarily representing specific human figures, Levinson’s works are more abstractions or essences of forms; allusions to human figures. “In the end, what interests me is to express a living thing. Therefore, I feel that the way of touching the material must be one that does not imitate reality, but recreates it.

“My sculptures change and evolve. I work on them for months. I deal with the artistic ideas of movement, of sentiment,” he reflects.

LEVINSON WORKS intuitively. “I work with a feeling – my hands seem to move on their own, without thinking or planning, until I feel that the work is finished. I keep true to that feeling, I do not fake it. I work until I am happy with the sculpture, until the sculpture speaks to me, and the feeling is strong enough. In the end, what I am interested in is the feeling, the sentiment.”

His drawings are arranged on the walls around the sculptures. “I use a model – sometimes, not always. These can be quick sessions, or sometimes longer sittings, but often I continue to work long after the model left – sometimes months, or even years later. I come back to a drawing and continue to work,” says Levinson. “This is my work process. I build than I erase – forward and backward.”

His human sculptures have no faces. “When we look at a person, our eyes are immediately drawn to the face, the eyes. I want people who look at the sculptures to see the whole figure – to see the movement, the sentiment – I don’t want them to only look at the face.”

The hint of a face allows for the movement to take a central place, he says. “It is like when we look at a tree. We don’t say here is a trunk, here are the leaves… this is not how we see a tree. We see shapes and colors, shadow and light. I look for context in the body, I want to see how our eye wanders from one part to the other.

“A certain music is created. This is what I look for – a rhythm, a dynamism that is created from the different parts of the work. In that sense, it is the less processed pieces that project stronger feelings.”

THE SHEETRIT & Wolf Gallery is dedicated to presenting the works of both Israeli and international artists who are innovative and show promise, and who break the boundaries of artistic expression. The gallery is a joint venture of Ruth Sheetrit, CEO, and Jonathan Wolf Abramczyk, a French-Israeli businessman who immigrated to Israel in 2016.

Avner Levinson’s Back to the Source exhibition is open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Sheetrit & Wolf Gallery is located at 35 Shabazi St., Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv.

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