Ofek, Avraham

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OFEK, AVRAHAM (1935–1990), Israeli painter and sculptor. Ofek was born in the town of Borgos, Bulgaria. When he was seven years old, his father, Jacob Rubanov, and his mother, Dina, passed away, and Miriam and Leon Algem adopted him. Only when he was 22 years old did Ofek uncover the story of his life and find out that he had two older brothers. After World War ii, under Ofek's influence, the family immigrated to Israel. Ofek chose to live in kibbutz Ein ha-Mifraẓ, in order to assimilate into Israeli society. In the kibbutz he painted the vistas that surrounded him, guided by the artist Arie Roitman. During the 1950s Ofek's art style was influenced by modern Italian artists as well as by his social involvement; he chose to draw in a Social Realist style. He described the life of the workers, Jews and Arabs, as monumental figures with bulging muscles.

Ofek, who studied art in Italy, learned the technique of wall painting. In 1963 he and his wife, Talma, moved to Jerusalem, where he became a teacher at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. In 1972 he exhibited in the Israeli pavilion in the Venice Biennale. In the 1980s Ofek taught art at Haifa University and, during 1981–83, he was consul for sculpture and science in the Israeli embassy in Rome.

Ofek's first wall painting was created in 1970 in Kefar Uriy yah. From then on he was commissioned for many wall paintings all over the country, most of them dealing with the history of Israel (1972, Post Office, Jerusalem). Ofek's social views were appropriate for the public art of that genre.

In 1976 he was one of the founders of the Leviathan artistic group. The group proclaimed its belief in the need to create, in Israel, art that would be connected with Jewish mysticism. They looked for a primitive and symbolic style with a deep connection to the spirit of modernism. They organized art happenings in the Judean Desert. Ofek screened Hebrew letters and geometric forms made of light on the rocks of the desert. Emphasis was placed on the symbolic meaning of the letters and their forms through the media, their huge size, and the desert space.

Ofek was also involved in sculpture. He preferred the carving technique, usually very flat carving, so the stone stayed in its natural form with a relief on the surface. One of the sculpture series dealt with the Sacrifice of Isaac, a subject that combines the Jewish mythos and the history of Israel's wars (1987, Safra Square, Jerusalem).


G. Efrat, HomeAvraham Ofek Works 19561986 (1987); Tefen, The Open Museum, Ofek Avraham 19351990 (2001).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]