Absalon, Installation view KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 2010 Photo: Uwe Walter, 2010

11 February-13 May 2012

Next spring Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is staging a one-man show of works by the artist Absalon. The exhibition will transfer from the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, the first institution to stage a major retrospective of Absalon’s work since 1994. An artist who died young, his enigmatic autonomy makes a profound impression.

For three months Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s large Bodon Gallery will feature the work of Absalon (1964 - 1993), an artist whose impressive oeuvre is greatly appreciated by connoisseurs, but is unfamiliar to the general public. His work consists of white, architectural, geometric structures and models, some films and drawings that reflect his rage and his yearning for security and safety. Absalon said, ‘Unlike an artist or a designer my thinking is free of any form of constraint.’

As in the KW in Berlin, the exhibition will display Absalon’s enigmatic works – living units painted neutral white and made entirely of wood. These ‘Cellules’ are, as it were, living pods for just one person, in which everything can be found for day-to-day, ritual activities down to the smallest detail, including window slits to keep unwanted guests at a distance. The shape of the cells calls to mind modern architectural styles like those of Le Corbusier, Bauhaus, de Stijl and Russian Constructivism, but stripped of their utopian ideas. These living units are based on the dimensions of his own body. Absalon said of his ‘Cellules’, ‘these homes will be a means of resistance to a society that keeps me from becoming what I must become.’ The spaces suggest a need for protection and shelter from the chaos of everyday life.

Absalon, born Meir Eshel in Israel, took his new name from King David’s rebellious favourite son (Absalom) when he moved from Israel to Paris at the end of the 1980s. In Paris he met other artists, studied at the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques and embarked on his oeuvre, which developed very rapidly. He became fascinated by spaces, which he systematically constructed step by step, taking as his point of departure questions about essential human activities and basic geometric shapes (rectangle, square, triangle and circle). His ‘Cellules’ were the end products. In the early 1990s he moved to Boulogne, where he lived in Le Corbusier’s house. Five years later he returned to the country of his birth for his exhibition in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Immediately after that he decided to live in his ‘Cellules’, which were spread among various cities. Absalon died in Paris on 10 October 1993 at the age of twenty-eight.