By Angela Lu
My first encounter with David Gerstein’s work was in a gallery in Jerusalem. I was not aware of his fame then, and never thought that seven years later I would support and curate Gerstein’s first large-scale solo exhibition in China.
I still remember vividly the moment that afternoon when I couldn’t help being captivated by his work. The abundant and vibrant colours, unpretentious yet interesting, brought a strong sense of enthusiasm and romance that formed a sharp contrast to the thick and rigid walls of Jerusalem. At that moment, I nearly forgot the sorrows this nation once had undergone. The everlasting firmness and passionate expectation in Gerstein’s works immediately made me stand in awe of this artist and the entire Jewish nation.
After getting to know him, I discovered an outstanding feature about Gerstein: his identity as a cross-over artist. “…he wishes his art would fly on its own wings, letting it incarnate in sculptures, cutouts, designed objects, jewelry and on and on until eternity” (Irena Gordon). His identity also changes between painter, sculptor, designer and illustrator. He had also been writing art criticism for Israeli newspapers to voice his own opinions.
Strolling along the streets and alleyways of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, we can see a variety of “copies” of David Gerstein’s works. When Gerstein once took me on a tour of Jerusalem, he told me which stores and galleries sold his genuine works and which ones sold fakes and copies. The calmness in his words proved to be the true confidence of a great artist.
Gerstein’s confidence not only derives from his generosity and leniency, but also from his exceptional talent.
Gerstein was praised as an “art prodigy” during his childhood in Israel. From 1965 to 1974, he devoted nearly ten years to pursue further study at four well-known art schools in Jerusalem, Paris, New York and London. After returning to Israel, he quickly stood out in the local art scene, and held his first solo exhibition at the age of 27.
Gerstein told me about the three pivotal decisions in his life when we sat in a seaside restaurant in Tel Aviv. One of them was when he resolutely resigned as a high-salary lecturer and devoted himself to being an independent artist. More than that, he insisted on seeking a way out for “figurative painting”, in which he always believes, and consequently developed the “cut-out sculpture” when Minimalism and Conceptualism had reigned over the Israeli and global art scene in 1970s.
In 1987, Gerstein was invited to hold a large- scale solo exhibition of cut-out works in the renowned Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which caused a stir in art circles and was a tremendous success. The exhibition’s title was “From Dudu to 3D”. “Dudu” means “two-dimension” in Hebrew, which is also the nickname of “David”. This exhibition was not only a milestone of his career, but also a sign of transformation of his creative style.
Painting has always been an indispensable component of Gerstein’s cut-out sculptures, or more precisely, multi-layered paintings.
From the 1980s to today, Gerstein’s cut-out works have undergone several transformations in style, each of which presented a new appearance. It is just like how I was surprised each time I visited his studio. I felt that recently his attainments in painting had become more proficient. The colours are bright yet gentle, the lines are simple yet delicate, and the images are enchanting yet characteristic. Being in his seventies, Gerstein’s creations never cease and remain as dynamic as those in his youth. He is still exploring happily on the journey of art.
From traditional paintings to cut-out works, Gerstein has achieved significant commercial success. His works have been collected by museums and private collectors around the world. His public art works can be found in cities and landscapes of many countries. However, his original motivation in art has never been about dealing with the market.
“I never woo the market. My creative motive comes from my interest and love only,” says Gerstein.
He is fascinated by the forms and shapes of flowers, birds, fish and insects, and indulges in observing colours and the flying motions of butterflies. Bustling metropolises with noisy crowds give him an opportunity to depict a variety of colours, characters and atmosphere. He is not particularly good at sport, but he draws inspiration of visual aesthetics from observing athletes. His devotion to art works in sport won him an award of contribution granted by the International Olympic Committee. And even when he installed his public art works across cities in China, he took interest in the workers on construction sites and captured what he saw and thought in sketch books…
When surveying his journey of art, we can understand the deep meaning of the simple sentence, “My creative motive comes from my interest and love only.” Gerstein’s artistic ideal is to benefit the mass of people with his art works.
Gerstein has always been striving to create artwork that people can enjoy and understand. He hopes as many people as possible have the chance to see his works and afford them. His art, “self” and “others” are two closely connected levels, which make him outstanding.
Gerstein is a real practitioner of the concept of “Art for Life and for People”, and he consciously answers the question of “What Is Art?” Gerstein has said that his cut-out wall sculptures are conceived by layers that interact with each other, and the thoughts and artistic conceptions are perceived and expressed through superficial and deeper layers. Therefore, the title of “Layers” is very appropriate.
While from my point of view, the word “Layers” not only illustrates his art exploration, but also interprets his art works accurately. Gerstein’s works are attractively bright-coloured and comprehensible, which seems to lack so-called “art profundity”. But when we explore deeper layers, we found that the vivid strokes hide the turbulence of love that soothes the viewers and warms their hearts. Is not interaction with life the most profound art?
As an artist, Gerstein has been accumulating knowledge and skills, building layers, and never stops advancing with the time. His perseverance with the artistic belief, vigorous creativity, variety of works and constant efforts in surpassing himself – all of these not only set an example, but also require us to study and explore layer by layer.
An artist like Gerstein, talented, educated at four internationally renowned academies and familiar with all leading trends of art, should have devoted himself to “high art” aloof from the general public, but instead Gerstein has been focusing on “high art” for the mass audience. Connecting the layer of “high art” with the layer of “mass audience” is a challenge. Gerstein has always been firmly dedicated to this purpose.
“Layers” is David Gerstein’s first large-scale solo exhibition in museums in China. It features wall sculptures, indoor free- standing sculptures and outdoor sculptures that were created by the artist in the last decade, alongside paintings representing his entire career. He once said, “This exhibition is not a retrospective, because it is too early for that”.
We are grateful to Today Art Museum for providing the opportunity to hold David Gerstein’s exhibition. This exhibition is to take the Chinese audience on a voyage into David Gerstein’s multi-layered art world.
About the curator
Angela Lu Ang, PhD. in Economics, an art collector, curator and art patron. She has been dedicated to supporting domestic and international artists and encouraging the art exchange between China and other countries for many years.
About the exhibition
Opening time: 22 April,2017
Duration: 2017.04.22 – 2017.05.16
Location: 1/F and 2/F Exhibition Hall of Building No.3, Today Art Museum
Courtesy of the artist and Today Art Museum, for further information please visit www.todayartmuseum.com.