The third solo exhibition of works by Yair Garbuz at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art marks his reception of the Rappaport Prize for an Established Israeli Artist, and presents paintings from the past five years. Garbuz was only 28 when his first, critically acclaimed, museum exhibition opened at the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion (in 1973). Over thirty years ago, in 1986, another solo exhibition, “Yair Garbuz Presents: a Jew, a Frenchman and an Arab”—was shown at the same pavilion.
“I Am Painters”— the title Garbuz chose for the exhibition, appears as a caption in one of the paintings. The linguistic error in the shift from singular to plural is only one among many linguistic and painterly “errors” that feed the humor, nonsense and carnivalesque in Garbuz’s painting theater. The new paintings reveal, now perhaps more than ever, Garbuz’s virtuosity and performativity, with both the Hebrew language and various painterly styles. The conversion of the single painter into many painters refers, primarily, to the horde of Israeli and Western modernist painters whom Garbuz imitates-copies in his paintings, which also involve representations of folk art. Yet “I Am Painters” is in fact the multiplicity that has characterized his art from the very beginning: a lot of paintings and a lot of images in each and every one of them. The issue is abundance, profusion, incessantness. The current exhibition brings the acts of imitation, gesturing, copying, and pastiche or impersonation to a peak.
Much folly, teasing of madness and mania (automania) is present in the paintings that make up “I Am Painters”. The occurrences in many of the paintings evoke the surrealist drawing game Exquisite Corpse in which a piece of paper is passed around with each participant continuing to draw where the former stopped before folding the page over the drawn section.
Among the painters Garbuz copies or refers to in the exhibition, Picasso has an especially prominent status. His name appears in a number of paintings, while others have images that are deliberate imitations of his painting and style. Paraphrasing a saying attributed to Picasso, “I don’t search, I find,” Garbuz came up with a word game made possible in Hebrew – “I don’t search, I disguise,” thus positing an alternative content in keeping with his own practice and at the same time remains loyal to the source: indeed, the disguised needs to be searched for.