TEL AVIV.- The Tel Aviv Museum of Art
opened a solo and a first museum exhibition for Melech Berger, a 94-year-old artist who worked for decades outside the central circles of the art world. The museum turns its gaze to the creative body of work by an idealistic artist, who believes in lofty social values, such as peace, brotherhood and equality between races, peoples and species.
The choice to display art created outside the mainstream and the existing artistic order, is one possible response to the upheaval we are experiencing in the present period. Museums face fundamental question at this time as well as a demand for redefinition. Faced with a changing world order and a demand from the art world to respond to the current reality, Melech Berger's work offers an unexpected example of art mobilized for ideas. Of art that takes it upon itself to convey a message without fear. Berger enlists art in the service of the message, with the innocence and determination of a believer, driven by an urgent sense of mission.
The deviation from the canon is not a value in itself. In the case of Melech Berger, it is an act driven by vigilance and political urgency. Alongside the ideological tension underlying the work, his output is rich in visual and material inventions, and captivating formal values. His artwork corresponds with current trends, such as environmental and ecological awareness and understanding of the need to preserve nature, for the benefit of the entire universe.
The exhibition presents about 40 works, including "Conditions for a Flourishing Humanity" - a large piece consisting of 36 parts and bearing the name of the exhibition, which is a kind of manifesto for his entire oeuvre.
Melech Berger was born in 1926 in Czechoslovakia. When he was three, his family immigrated to Brazil, where he grew up on one of the farms set up by Baron Hirsch for Jews in Latin America. As a teenager he joined the communist movement and in 1951 he immigrated to Israel and lived in Kibbutzim Mefalsim, Gaash and Yad Hana. In 1960 he moved to Be'er Sheva and worked in the Horticultural Department in the city, in various gardening jobs until he retired.
In the 1970s he began to create art with materials he found in nature: seeds, twigs, feathers, bark of palm trees, small pebbles, and powder shredded from stones and more. The various materials were glued on a thin plywood substrate, and the picture frames were built from bark. The aesthetics of his works evoke various sources: illustrated manuscripts, medieval books of hours with descriptions of the seasons, murals from Latin America, futuristic painting language and posters in the style of socialist realism.