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Photograph of Michal Na'aman, 1978
|Born||November 19, 1951
Kvutzat Kinneret, Israel
|Known for||Conceptual art Painter|
Michal Na'aman (born 1951, Kibbutz Kvutzat Kinneret), is an Israeli painter. From the point of view of values, her work is characterized as conceptual art and deals with such subjects as the limitations of language and sight, the possibilities for expression, and gender issues. Using the the techniques of collage, Na’aman has created works that examine the visual way of thinking as opposed to the verbal way of thinking. In 2014 she was awarded the Israel Prize for Plastic Arts for her work.
Michal Na’aman was born in 1951, the youngest of the four children of the historian Shlomo Na’aman and of Leah Kupernik. She grew up on Kibbutz Kvutzat Kinneret, where her father was a teacher in the regional high school and her mother in the joint school. In an interview many years later Na’aman noted that her parents’ “non-pioneer” careers drew an unenthusiastic response from the kibbutz members. “My family was a little like lepers there,” Na’aman testified,” and the fact is they were thrown out.” In 1964 she left with her parents to the town of Lod. While she was studying in high school, she also studied at the "Margoshilsky" High School for Art, Tel Aviv. After that she studied art privately with George Shemesh.
In 1969, Na’aman began studying at the "Hamidrasha" Art Teachers' Training College, which at that time was next to the Beit Histadrut Ha-Morim (Teacher’s Union House) At Hamidrasha she studied art with Ran Shechori, Dov Feigin, and Raffi Lavie. Lavie’s artistic language, which included scribbling and the use collage, and styles such as “Want of Matter, was adopted by Na’aman and by other students of Lavie. However, what distinguished Na’aman’s work from Lavie’s was that in her works there were textual images, cutting her work off from the separation of “form” and “content” that Lavie insisted on in his work.
In 1972 Na’aman completed her studies in the History of Art and Literature at Tel Aviv University. In this same year she exhibited some of her works in a group exhibition at “Gallery 201” in Tel Aviv.
In 1974 Na’aman exhibited her works in the exhibition "Five Young Artists" in the Kibbutz Art Gallery in Tel Aviv. The other artists who exhibited along with Na’aman were Tamar Getter, David Ginton, Nahum Tevet, and Efrat Natan, who knew each other through their connection to Raffi Lavie. On her work “A Kid in Its Mother’s Milk” (1974), which was shown in this exhibition, Na’aman wrote a text that transferred “the religious, Talmudic law to a national, secular reality” in both a private and a national context. The Biblical text “A Kid in Its Mother’s Milk” appears on a piece of exercise book paper next to the text “A Country That Eats its Young,” as well as in pink letters on the wall of the gallery. The work was heavily criticized during the exhibition. Yehoshua Kenaz, for example, the editor of the Culture Supplement of the newspaper Haaretz at the time, described the work as “trickery.”
Another work shown in the exhibition was the photograph “Daughter of Israel” (1974) – photographic documentation of an “activity” in which Na’aman wrote a text taken from Ultraorthodox warning notices about modesty, on a piece of paper attached to her arm as a sort of splint. Na’aman’s use, in a critical way, of Jewish traditions in her work was characteristic of other works she created during the 1970s.
Airy Nuns and Other Species
In the middle of the 1970s Na’aman began to use collage and photography as a central part of her work. The use of photography as a central part of the raw material of her collages enabled Na’aman, for the first time, to introduce clear visual images of sexuality and sexual perfection, alongside a preoccupation with her real and fake identity. In her series of works entitled “Blue Retouch” (1974-1975), Na’aman made use of photographic images of Zalman Shoshi, Uri Zvi Greenberg, and of a female criminal whose eyes were gouged out. These images underwent a “retouch” using a blue pencil, that emphasized certain details in the photographs.
On December 23, 1975, Na’aman’s first solo exhibition opened in the Yodfat Gallery in Tel Aviv. It was the last exhibition mounted in this gallery before it closed. In the review in the newspaper Al HaMishmar , Chana Bar-Or wrote about the works in Na’aman’s exhibition that they represent “one long, difficult system of ‘conceptualism’ trying to break out of the concept..” 
In “Vanya (Vajezath)" (1975), a collage exhibited in the exhibition, Na’aman uses a photograph of the legs of a woman with her underpants pulled down juxtaposed to a photograph of a ceiling fan. Sarah Breitberg Semel described the work retrospectively as a “strip show” by a woman whose body can’t be seen. “All the viewer gets to see,” Breitberg Semel remarked, “is a little piece of her skirt, that is, a little more black. Nothing else is on view. The fan, on the other hand, is photographed turning so fast you can see the hole in the middle of the blades. A kind of reversal is created between the male element (the fan) and the female element, with head and legs exchanged between them.
Another work that used a photo of a fan is “Killed a Penguin/A Nun Was Killed” (1975). This work combined an interest in sexuality and popular culture, expressed through a chauvinist joke, with an interest in semiotics and the grammatical exchange between the passive and active voice. The fan, as Na’aman described it, “turns and, as it does, mixes white with black, life with death, penguin with nun.”
This mixing of different species can be seen also in other works, such as “Lord of Colors” (1976), in which Na’aman created a divergent and mistaken spelling of the name of God, or the series “Fish Bird,” the beginning of which dates from 1977. These works had at their center a hybrid creature composed of photographs of a fish and a bird, taken from an encyclopedia of nature. The images were accompanied by texts such as “The Gospel According to the Bird” or “The Fish is the Joke of the Bird,” which take their inspiration from Christianity along with a discussion of the questions of “Ars Poetica.”
New York, 1978-1980
From 1978 to 1980 Na’aman lived in New York, where she studied in the School of Visual Arts, with the help of a grant she received from the America Israel Cultural Foundation. During this period the “rabbit-duck,” which has been a central ethnographic symbol in her work ever since, first appeared.
The source of this image was the "Jastrow illusion," which raises the question of the identity of a visual image which was named for the American Jewish psychologist Joseph Jastrow. Na’aman borrowed the image from the book Philosophical Investigations (Philosophische Untersuchungen) by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953). In her works from this period Na’aman returned to painting techniques that included the use of stencils and the dribbling on of color. The paintings, which were dominated by shades of red and black, were composed of strips of newspaper, arranged along vertical and horizontal axles, like a kind of cross. On the cross images of the “rabbit-duck’ appeared, alongside of text fragments and sentences in English connected to the concept of identity.” The works, Na’aman declared, were concerned with “the increase in genetic reproduction” in family images, and in the reciprocity of looks exchanged between you and the world.”14] In 1980 Na’aman mounted an exhibition of these works in the Gallery of Bertha Urdang in New York.
- 1972 Graduate of Tel Aviv University, literature and history of art
- Art Teachers' Training College, Ramat Hasharon
- 1978-80 School of Visual Arts, New York
- 1977-2004 Art Teachers' Training College, Ramat Hasharon
- 2005 - Beit Berl, the School of Art - Hamidrasha, Professor
Awards and prizes
- American-Israel Cultural Foundation, scholarship for School of Visual Arts, New York, 1978–1980
- Jacques and Genia O'Hana Prize for a Young Israeli Artist, Tel Aviv Museum, 1981
- George and Janette Geffin Prize, America Israel Culture Fund, 1995
- The Minister Of the Arts and Science Prize
- Isracard Prize, Tel Aviv Museum, together with Lillian Klapisch, 1998
- Dizengoff Prize, 2002
- Sandberg Prize, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1998
- Sandberg Prize, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2002
- 1975 Vai Hi Oh, Yodfat Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1976 Backbiting, Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1977 Fish Bird, Russ Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1978 Michal Na’aman, New Works, Russ Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1980 Ducks and Rabbits, Bertha Urdang Gallery, New York.
- 1981 Mabat Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1982 The Venice Biennale.
- 1983 Michael Na’aman 1975-1983, Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
- 1984 Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1985 Betzalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem.
- 1987 Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1989 Michal Na’aman, New Works, 1987–1989, Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1991 Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1998 Legion, Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 1999 Legion, Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
- 1999 Red and a Trickle of White, Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 2001 Yester-Red, Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv.
- 2006 Miracles on the Sea, Beit Gabriel, Jordan Valley
- 2006 The eye of the Nation, Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv
- 2010 A Smile, A Cat, A Cut", Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv (cat.)
- 2011 Fuck The Clock - Fresh Paint Fair - Gordon Gallery
- 2013 Wit/ויץ/Wit, Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv
As of this edit, this article uses content from "Michal Na'aman", which is licensed in a way that permits reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, but not under the GFDL. All relevant terms must be followed.
Killed a Penguin; A Nun was Killed, 1975
Photograph, paper and Letraset on cardboard
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Mixed media and collage on cardboard
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
- Michal Naaman collection at the Israel Museum. Retrieved February 2012
- "Michal Na'aman". Information Center for Israeli Art. Israel Museum. Retrieved February 2012.
- Art of Michal Naaman at Europeana. Retrieved February 2012
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