When Gershuni Paints there is a God

28 Apr

By David Sperber
Translated from the Hebrew by Elisheva Sperber
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the retrospective exhibition of Moshe Gershuni, displayed at the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, is one of the museum’s most important exhibitions as of late.
Gershuni became a groundbreaker since the days of political and conceptual art, of which he was one of the originators in Israel. After working with expressions of explicit carnality and unequivocal expressionism, and what is refered to at times as ” Abject Art “, which is expressed by him in images and materials insinuating bodily excretions, continued on the theme of “The Return to the Shtetl” and the occupation with the Holocaust and Yiddish, accompanied by criticism towards the Zionistic aversion to the “Jew of the exile” image. The exhibition’s curator notes in the catalogue that Gershuni celebrates in all that the Zionist thinker Max Nordau, and later on the Nazis, entitled “distorted”, i.e. Jewishness, queerness, crime and retardation. Gershuni anticipated the revival of Judaism in Israeli art, alongside the occupation with queer and gender issues.

The religious aspect in general, and the Jewish one in particular, became dominant in Gershuni’s work starting in the 80′s. They recall of the Pauline concept of “carnal Israel”, and reveal a sensual creator, who voices primarily the corporeal, furnishing it with ideas. Gershuni’s appeal to the transcendental is written with bodily fluids; Gershuni’s transcendentalism is buried in physical material and mundane matter. Gershuni underscores the fact that a condition for the dialogue he creates is to “accept beauty without disregarding shit”. His work is often intuitive, “gut speech”, in which great ideas are etched in a way no language could replace. He quotes biblical verses from memory, only to discover that his citations are erroneous or that they are misspelled , however, he does not mind, as he in this way has reinvented them. In a paraphrase on the expression “bland Jewish food”, coined by the author Orly Castel-Bloom, we shall say that Gershuni’s work is indeed quite often Jewish in content; however it is replete with flavors of pathos and sensuality.

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