Israel Art
Raffi Lavie
Israeli, 1937–2007
Acrylic and collage on plywood
122 x 250 cm

Purchase, Yahel Foundation in honor of Leon Recanati, Tel Aviv
© The artist
Accession number: B03.0063

Raffi Lavie is a key figure in the evolution of Modernism in Israel as artist, curator, critic, and for over forty years the charismatic teacher of generations of artists. He has produced a vast body of paintings, drawings, and films. Influenced by Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, and especially the Israeli artists Arie Aroch and Aviva Uri, he has created an individual artistic language, translating modernist and avant-garde developments into images and syntax appropriate to local Israeli reality.

Raffi Lavie is especially associated with a 1970s-80s style in Israel art that was coined ''the want of matter,'' referring to works with an Arte Povera-like aesthetic: an affinity with rough, cheap, low-quality materials such as plywood, readymade objects such as old furniture, and wood used as supports. Many of the artists working in this style were based in Tel Aviv, and the coarse, unadorned, and almost shabby feel of their work seemed to reflect the rundown city environment rather than the idealized green and fertile landscape of the countryside.

This piece exemplifies Lavie's work of the 1980s with the signature feature of this period - the use of posters and magazine reproductions with large expanses of color. The poster in the center is for an Open Day at Tel Aviv University and is flanked by a reproduction of a Classical sculpture and a photograph of an exotic, romantic sunset complete with palm trees and golden skies. The mundane world - students and lecturers meeting at the university to entice future students to come and learn - is in a pivotal position between more glamorous worlds: the heights of Western civilization and the utopian escape to sun-kissed beaches.

Publications: The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005

Photo © IMJ, by Ohad Matalon