Tamar Getter

1953 | Giv’atayim, Israel
Tamar Getter — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Tamar Getter, Photo Ariel Alinson

Israeli painter.

Tamar Getter played a significant role in the development of Israeli conceptual art in the 1970s. Her unique practice, combining conceptualism, formalism and expressionism, includes mainly large-scale wall paintings and repetitive drawing series, which often incorporate fictive texts and reference Western art history and architecture.
T. Getter studied at the State Art Teacher Training College in Ramat HaSharon (1975-1976), but was mainly trained privately by influential Israeli painter Raffi Lavie (1937-2007) in the early 1970s. Between 1975 and 1979 she studied poetics and comparative literature at Tel Aviv University, and alongside her text-influenced art she publishes fiction. During the 1980s she lived in Frankfurt, Germany, where she received a studio fellowship at the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (1989-1990). She taught at the David Azrieli School of Architecture, Tel Aviv University, and currently teaches at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem.

One of T. Getter’s earlies and best-known works is a cycle of drawings called The Tel Hai Cycle (1974-1978), first presented in her inaugural solo show in 1978 (Tamar Getter: Paintings 1977-1978, Israel Museum, Jerusalem). The series features the iconic courtyard of Tel Hai, a farm in northern Israel and the location of the famous Battle of Tel Hai, fought between a Jewish defensive paramilitary force and local Arabs in 1920. In the series, the Zionist landmark is used to charge formalist and modernist concerns such as linear perspective and symmetry with local myths, national heroism and terrorism.
In many of her works, T. Getter unpacks a persistent – yet knowingly bound to fail – striving for geometrical perfection. She often repeats historical references, such as Perspective Study of a Chalice (1430-1450)‎ by Paolo Uccello (1397-1475) (Double Monster, Sagacho Exhibit Space, Tokyo, 1996) or Alexander Baerwald’s unrealized utopian plans for the Nordau Garden City in Palestine (Boulevard Central, Zman Leamanut, Tel Aviv, 2002). Such attempts are often aided, as well as restricted, by various painterly devices, or by drawing blindfolded. The motif of disabled or deformed bodies is repeatedly found in T. Getter’s work; in this regard, the birth defect in her left arm, which did not prevent her from practising sport and dance as a child, becomes a relevant biographical detail. For T. Getter, painting is an action and the painting body a machine – whose impotence or inability are not only a starting point, but a metaphor for the artistic act itself.

Other works by T. Getter address the conflicted dynamics between Israeli art and imagery and Western art history. In her 1994-1995 installation The ‘U’ in Gustave, for example, she combined images of young man carrying deer, based on a found photograph of boys returning deer to a kibbutz with a fictional story she wrote about Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) (Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod). T. Getter’s unique and relentless investigation of modernist painting, embedded with local politics and offering a fictional horizon, positions her as one of the most important Israeli artists working today. She represented Israel at the 40th Venice Biennale in 1982 together with Michal Na’aman (b. 1951-) (The Landscapes), and her works are included in many collections, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Arturo Schwarz Collection, Jerusalem; and Frankfurter Kunstverein.

Keren Goldberg

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