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The Spectacle of Lea Nikel

Lea Nikel

24.01.2013 - 16.03.2013

Lea Nikel, the Spectacle of Lea Nikel, 2013, installation view (1), Chelouche Gallery, Tel Aviv

The Spectacle of Lea Nikel


Curator: Nira Itzhaki

Ongoing until: 16.03.13


The exhibition "The Spectacle of Lea Nikel" spreads over Chelouche Gallery's three floors and consists of around 50 works by Lea Nikel (1918-2005); acrylic on canvas and on paper, from the years 1953-2005.


In my eyes, Lea Nikel was a bold and brilliant jazz artist. For her exhibition I chose works where her magnificent jazzy motifs and Nikel's well known "improvisations" appear in their most refined and purest form. For Lea Nikel “Painting is like music, like words… another sentence in the poem”.


"I want to surprise myself" said Nikel, and indeed, just as the greatest jazz artists she reinvented new color "chords" of carefully structured disorder. Yigal Zalmona wrote about Nikel's paintings that the primal quality of each and every one of them lies in its being ultimately a "spectacle": not only a picture, not only an image, not only a visual statement, not only an expression of inner feelings, but rather a spectacular display- a striking outburst, ex nihilo, of a new world, visual in the purest sense.


"We are concerned with a spectacle of refined beauty, one that originates from the artist's habit of working a tight rope; beauty that is spawned by color combinations ostensibly impossible in any other arrayment, by brave, 'dangerous', absurd compositions."


Lea Nikel was born in Ukraine in 1918, immigrated to Palestine when she was two years old. She grew up in Tel Aviv, studied with Gliksberg, Steimatsky and Streichman. To continue her studies she travelled to Paris where she lived and worked between 1950-1961, a determinant decade in the history of postwar European art. Nikel was involved in the artistic and social life and in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Paris.


Since the 60's she lived intermittently in Israel, New York, France and in the last years of the decade in Rome. Between 1973 and 1977 Nikel worked in New York, living at the Chelsea Hotel, a well-known hotel and studio with a reputable position in the history of New York art. From there she returned to Jaffa. Later on she built her home with her spouse Sam Leiman in Moshav Kidron.


Nikel is one of the distinctive representatives of the second generation of the abstract painters that were also known as the “Abstract Expressionists”. Her paintings are characterized by colorfulness, vitality and spontaneity. The main elements in her work are color and materiality and they have formed her unique personal stamp. Nikel uses many varied techniques: paintbrush, scraping, carving, finger painting, dripping and collage.


Nikel is the winner of Israel Prize for painting in 1995. She was awarded many important prizes such as: Dizengoff Prize on behalf of the Tel Aviv Municipality, Gamzu Prize from the Tel Aviv Museum, an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, a medal from UNESCO for her activity as well as the Chevalier of Arts and Letters Award by the French Minister of Culture.


She held many solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums all over Israel and in the major cities around the world: Retrospective in the Tel Aviv Museum, in the Israel Museum Jerusalem, the Haifa Museum, galleries and museums in Paris, in The Netherlands, New York, London, Japan and more. She represented Israel in the Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa, in the 32nd Biennale in Venice in 1964 and in the Biennale in Chile.


Lea Nikel passed away on September 2005.


During the exhibition An interactive lecture "Vision the Sound" by Dr. Ori Lashman, took place in the gallery, 28.02.2013


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