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Gershuni, Moshe


GERSHUNI, MOSHE (1936– ), Israeli painter. Gershuni was born in Tel Aviv. His father was a farmer and as a young man Gershuni thought he would be one too. When he was 19 his father was killed in a car accident and young Gershuni had to work in the family orchards. Only when he was 24 did he begin to study art in evening classes at the Avni Institute (1960–64). He studied sculpture and thought of himself as a sculptor. In the 1960s he was one of the young avant-garde artists who exhibited with the support of the Ten Plus group in Tel Aviv and came to the attention of Yona Fisher at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

From 1970 to 1978 Gershuni taught at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. As a teacher, in keeping with the spirit of the times, he guided his students toward a Modern-Conceptual art style. Gershuni himself exhibited works in the same style, such as a piece of paper with a piece of margarine on it or torn paper on which he wrote, "The paper looks white but inside it is black." In those years he was a part of a small group of artists, among them Micha *Ullman and Avital Geva, who met with their mentor, Itzhak *Danziger, to talk about art. They worked as a group in peripheral areas and also created political art. As a result of a conceptual-ideological rebellion Gershuni was dismissed from Bezalel at the end of the 1970s. He changed his personal life style as well as his artistic style, which became emotional and expressive. He started to use his fingers as his tools, stained the canvas or the paper with mixed colors, and added scribbling and free handwriting. During these years he began to deal with the subject of homosexuality.

One of the main themes that Gershuni ventured to deal with was the Holocaust. In his complicated way he mixed Yiddish, the swastika, the star of David, and verses from prayer. It was the first time in Israeli art that the swastika was represented, and it courageously reflected Gershuni's desire to get into the very heart of the subject. In the Venice Biennial he used the image of blood, creating a puddle of blood on the floor and writing German words referring to the Holocaust on the walls. In these works he also used cutlery and towels to symbolize the Jewish religious heritage and basic existence, purity and impurity.

With the same daring Gershuni dealt with the wars of the State of Israel. In a series of paintings he scribbled the name Itzhak and wrote repetitive sentences about soldiers and killing together with quotations from Israeli patriotic songs. Gershuni was also one of the first artists to get involved in Judaism, delving deeply into his Jewish identity.

In 2003 Gershuni was awarded the Israel Prize. Gershuni decided to come to the ceremony but for political reasons refused to shake hands with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Education Minister Limor Livnat. After much tumult in the media and appeals in the Supreme Court the decision was to deny him the prize.


Israel Museum, Moshe Gershuni 1980–1986 (1986); Jerusalem Print Workshop, Under the Sun (2003).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]

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