From 29 June 2023
Destruction, decay, mutilated and burned bodies, disfigured faces. Ofer Lellouche portrays human beings in a way that is as mystical as it is radical. The output of this Tunisian-born Israeli artists brings up the oldest universally valid question pertaining to human existence: Why?
The human being as a stranger in the world, the individual abandoned by God, is a prominent theme of all eras and cultures. But in light of millennia of persecution, it is a question that enjoys a special status and degree of topicality in historical and—unfortunately—present-day Jewish thought. Lellouche also approaches this theme in light of his own multicultural identity: with the “why” always being central. Be it in the Bible or in the Talmud: in Hebrew, this existential interrogative shares the same numerical value as the word for human being (Adam), thus referring to the existing close and eternally valid connection between these two words.
The self-portrait and the human body are the most important themes in Lellouche’s oeuvre. His bodies are naked and exposed, as God created them, with how or why they were mutilated remaining a Kafkaesque mystery. Lellouche does not offer any ways out, nor does he provide a possible iconography of liberation: his figures, who seem dark and threatening, greet us with blank stares. Despite their passivity, however, the mere presence of these bodies forces us with shocking power and unsurpassed intensity to confront the question of being.
Lellouche, who lives in Tel Aviv and Paris, began experimenting with video art and painting in the 1970s and has worked with a wide range of media from drawing to sculpture, etching, and woodcut over the course of his career to date. His works stand out for their unmistakability much as do those of Alberto Giacometti and Jim Dine, the latter of whom is a personal friend.
Of significant importance to the process behind his works’ creation is the unity of content and form: instead of forcing an abstract idea upon an arbitrarily chosen medium, he deliberately allows the specific characteristics of said medium—be it a woodcut, a metal plate, or a bronze casting—to determine his respective works’ final outcomes.
On view at the ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna from 29 June until 19 September 2023.
Ofer Lellouche: Self Portrait with a Sunset III, 2011
170 x 90 cm Woodcut
(The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna | Photo: Elad Sarig © Ofer Lellouche)
Ofer Lellouche: Self-Portrait with a Raised Hand, 2012
80 × 120 cm Charcoal on paper
(The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna - Donation Ofer Lellouche 2023 in memory of Jan Krugier | Photo: Elad Sarig © Ofer Lellouche)
Ofer Lellouche: Portrait of the Artist with a Bust of his Father, 2019
150 × 105 cm Mixed media on paper
(The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna – Donated in 2023 by Ofer Lellouche in memory of Dov Gottesman | Photo: Elad Sarig © Ofer Lellouche)
Ofer Lellouche: Head, 2009
32 × 25 × 30 cm Terracotta
(The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna – Donated in 2020 by Ofer Lellouche in memory of Dov Gottesman © Ofer Lellouche)
Ofer Lellouche: Self-Portrait, 2009
121 × 81 cm Radierung, Kaltnadel auf Chine Collé
(ALBERTINA, Wien - Schenkung Ofer Lellouche 2020 im Gedenken an Dov Gottesman)