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Menashe Kadishman

KADISHMAN, MENASHE (1932– ), Israeli painter and sculptor. Kadishman was born in Tel Aviv, the son of Russian pioneers. When he was 15 his father died and he had to give up his education, leave school, and help his mother. During his army service Kadishman served as a shepherd at kibbutz Ma'yan Barukh. This experience made an indelible impression on him that was later expressed in his art. In 1959 Kadishman followed Itzhak *Danziger's advice and went to London to study sculpture in the St. Martin School of Art. During the 13 years that he spent in London he refined his Minimalist Conceptual style. Most of his sculptures from that period were made from steel or aluminum and some of them included glass, too. The common theme in these sculptures was tension. The forms assembled in the sculptures created a strange posture that was contrary to the laws of nature. The ability of the sculptures to stand without falling constituted their formal power. Kadishman installed some of these sculptures in Israel on his return to his homeland (Rising, 1974, Habimah Square, Tel Aviv).

In 1978 Kadishman represented Israel in the Venice Biennial. He created an unforgettable performance in a sheep pen. Kadishman stood, as a shepherd, in the middle of the Israeli pavilion and painted the backs of the sheep blue. The smell of the pavilion and the bleating sounds attracted the curious, integrating conceptual art and biblical imagery.

The sheep motif returned in Kadishman's art in different kinds of media. Over time it became a ram and in 1983 the whole scene expanded to become the Sacrifice of Isaac. The inspiration for this subject was his son's military service in Lebanon. In the paintings and the sculptures that deal with the biblical scene Abraham appears as a secondary figure while the ram's image increases in significance (Sacrifice of Isaac, 1982–85, Jewish Museum, New York).

Another series of sculptures deal with birth. The mother and infant are described as silhouettes in exaggerated postures of pain. Toward the end of the 1990s the single motif of a screaming head was left in the sculptures. In a very impressive installation Kadishman placed hundreds of heads on the floor under the title ShalekhetFallen Leaves (1997–99, Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv). The reference to the famous painting of Edward Munch as well as the Holocaust symbolism was unmistakable. The romantic title was provocative, since the work had such a different meaning.

In 1995 Kadishman received the Israel Prize.


Suermondt Ludwig Museum, Aachen, Menashe KadishmanShalechet Heads and Sacrifices (1999); The Jewish Museum, New York, Sacrifice of Isaac (1985).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.