Gross, Michael

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GROSS, MICHAEL (1920–2004), Israeli painter and sculptor. Born in Tiberias to a sixth generation Galilean family, the son of Leah Levi and Chaim Gross, Michael Gross had a very lonely childhood, as his father, a romantic pioneer, chose to live with his family in an isolated area near the shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Surrounded by Arab villages, the family was in a precarious situation and Gross did not go to school until he was ten. In the 1936 riots, the family's house was burned down and they moved back to Tiberias. Three years later, in 1939, when the family returned to the ruined house, his father was stabbed to death by Arabs.

Gross studied art in Jerusalem at the Mizrachi Teacher's Seminar, followed by architectural studies at the Technion in Haifa. In 1951–54, he studied in Paris at the Ecole National Superieur des Beaux-Arts. When he returned he settled in Haifa and set up his studio at the artist's village of Ein Hod. Gross also taught art from 1960 to 1985 at the Oranim Kibbutz Teacher's Seminar. His artwork represented Israel in international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennial, the Sao Paulo Biennial, and the Documenta 9 in Kassel, and was very favorably received.

Many of Gross' works are an integral part of wellknown collections such as at the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In 2000 Gross received the Israel Prize.

The style of Gross' art is unique. He did not attach himself to any of the artist groups in Israel. His childhood loneliness was reflected in his solitary life as an artist, though many artists, such as Micha *Ullman and Belu Simon Fainaru, spoke of his great influence on them. His style is rooted in Minimalism and its various international languages. On the other hand, the style could be said to owe something to the local Israeli environment. His art always focuses on a certain landscape or a certain figure but its abstraction makes it difficult to identify. For example, Jerusalem is repeatedly symbolized with building motifs such as gates or windows. Later these became lines on a bright white background that suggested the sunlight typical of the Jerusalem area (UntitledJerusalem, 1975, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

In the portrait genre Gross increasingly returned to his father. One of his first paintings was created shortly after he heard about his father's death and ever since then there was a bond between his art and his private feelings and perceptions of absence.

The motif of the house was repeatedly used in Gross' art. Over the years it became fragmented, so that only doors, walls, and shutters remained. Most of these fragments are readymade, and as the wooden constructions were painted and leaned against the museum's walls it seemed as if they had been left there by mistake (Occurrence ii, 1980, Israel Museum, Jerusalem). His public sculptures were also minimalist and in spite of their height they are almost invisible (Tremor, 1983, Independence Park, Jerusalem).


Israel Museum, Michael Gross: Outdoor and Indoor Works (1977); O. Mordechai, Michael Gross, Genia Schrieber University Art Gallery, Tel Aviv University (1993).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]