Mandelbaum, the disappearing artist
The Jewish Museum of Belgium presents the first retrospective of this talent of the Belgian artist, educator and playwright. All his paintings are questioning.
The paintings in this retrospective of Arie Mandelbaum revolve around erasure and disappearance, manifesting a fragility that is never morbid, sometimes ironic, often pathetic.
“From the beginning, his brush became an instrument of rebellion, a rebellion that continued throughout his budding career.”
Born in 1939, Arie Mandelbaum started painting at the age of 16. Bruno Benvindo, director of exhibitions at the museum, remembers this “disobedient artist” with emotion. He explains the choice of this epithet as follows: “Mandelbaum left the school and the family home of Polish Jewish immigrants very early. It was a family home with no passion for art or painting in particular. His brush became an instrument of rebellion from the very beginning, the rebellion continues in his youth. career.”
One of his three sons, Stefan, himself a prolific and rebellious artist, had an illustrious career before disappearing and being assassinated, a crime that has never been fully explained.
Indeed, studying at the Art Academy in the late 1950s, faced with non-figurative abstraction, he preferred “living expressionism”. When he became professor (1966) and then director (1979) of the Art School of Uccle, he “experienced a second difficult moment”, emphasizes Bruno Benvindo. One of his three sons, Stefan, himself a prolific and rebellious artist, had an illustrious career before disappearing and being assassinated, a crime that has never been fully explained. He then decides to “tone it down,” is his words about his son’s work, and ventures into a more accessible job, away from fashion and schools.
Family and delete
As for Shoah, Bruno Benvindo suggests that he was “absent” from the work long ago, or certainly present, but buried. The secret child of a broken family away from the Nazis and their collaborators, his sister is entrusted to a convent in Ghent, his brother to farmers in Pepinster, and himself to a foster family. “Prior to 2000, the Holocaust was only represented in the allusions lived by Expressionism, and then in the erasure of faces,” recalls Benvindo.
However, the Mandelbaum family, if released, reappears with his mother’s portrait “Ruchia” (1976) and the leather goods portrait of his father (squeezed under his father, a child artist) with a disappearance request. sewing-machine). If there are ascendants, the generations are also in silent dialogue with his son Stefan. (whose paintings were exhibited at the Center Pompidou in 2019), is noted for his father’s work, having himself been Arie’s student and assistant at the Uccle art school. In the haunting Untitled (1987), a sacrificial red sheep sits in the center of the quarry where Stefan’s body is found.
Everywhere, however, Mandelbaum registers a restrained, unspoken trace that manifests in the increasingly present manner of relying on white backgrounds, as in The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba (2011).
His self-portrait with a mirror (1982), a series of bare-chested self-portraits spanning decades.intimate posture“Self-portrait with belts” (1984) or shaky recall“Child’s Self-Portrait” (2006) or double “Self-portrait in the studio” (1989), a bloody statue of the same red as the sacrificial sheep of 1987, the master forms a cohort.
Mandelbaum’s work spans from 1957 to the present, and the retrospective features curated for the exhibition itself.
A very modern artist, Mandelbaum’s works come from the collections of the Jewish Museum, the Ixelles Museum, the BNB Museum, the collections of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the Belfius Art Collection. and several private collections. His work spans from 1957 to the present, and the retrospective includes works designed for the exhibition itself.
Arie Mandelbaum. Belgian Jewish Museum. Until March 5. Website: www.mjb-jmb.org. ****