At the end of the 1980s the Israeli artist Absalon achieved sudden fame in Paris, only to die suddenly at the age of twenty-eight. This spring, the museum is showing a selection of his work in a large yet intimate exhibition including his white constructions, known as Cellules, prototypes and films. Who was Absalon?
Absalon was born Meir Eshel in 1964 in the Israeli coastal town, Ashdod. Shortly before his fourteenth birthday he was sent to a military boarding school before doing four years military service in the ground personnel of Israel’s air force. A year before his military service was due to end, Absalon left the air force and retreated to a hut on the beach in his hometown. He read philosophy, sold homemade jewellery and saved up for a one-way ticket to Paris, where he arrived in 1987 and was introduced to the art world by his uncle. From that moment on Meir Eshel called himself Absalon, after the rebellious son of the Old Testament King David.
When Absalon arrived in Paris he had had no artistic training and had created only a few works. However, he was accepted immediately at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts followed by a scholarship to attend the Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastiques. Two years before his death, Absalon moved into a studio built by Le Corbusier, where he worked on his so-called Cellules. He made sketches, models and prototypes for six cells that should serve as his accommodation in the six cities in which he frequently worked: Paris, Zurich, New York, Tel Aviv, Frankfurt and Tokyo. The cells were not only designed for a specific site in the centre of a specific city, but were also tailor-made to his height: 190 cm. The Cellules were to dictate Absalon’s life, so he made them precisely for the kind of life he wanted to live: a life that runs counter to the stream of social and cultural developments. While Absalon was developing the Cellules, he also began to work with video, giving his oeuvre a new dimension. In addition to Constructivism and architecture based on geometric principles, his work now also connected with the Body Art and Performance Art of the 1960s and 1970s. Read more about the exhibition ABSALON, which runs until 13 May.
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