Tel Aviv balconies in focus as sculptor David Gerstein goes back to drawing
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Tel Aviv balconies in focus as sculptor David Gerstein goes back to drawing

In a departure from his famed metal works of flowers, butterflies and bicycles, the longtime artist exhibits oil paintings of urban scenes

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

  • Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
    Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
  • Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
    Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
  • Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
    Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
  • Part of David Gerstein's continuing 'Balconies' series being exhibited July 9-August 1, 2020 at the Tel Aviv Artists' House (Courtesy David Gerstein)
    Part of David Gerstein's continuing 'Balconies' series being exhibited July 9-August 1, 2020 at the Tel Aviv Artists' House (Courtesy David Gerstein)
  • Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
    Part of David Gerstein's car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)
  • Part of artist David Gerstein's new series being exhibited July 9-August 1 at Artists' House Tel Aviv (Courtesy David Gerstein)
    Part of artist David Gerstein's new series being exhibited July 9-August 1 at Artists' House Tel Aviv (Courtesy David Gerstein)
  • Part of artist David Gerstein's new series being exhibited July 9-August 1 at Artists' House Tel Aviv (Courtesy David Gerstein)
    Part of artist David Gerstein's new series being exhibited July 9-August 1 at Artists' House Tel Aviv (Courtesy David Gerstein)

David Gerstein (everyone calls him Dudu), an artist known for his vibrant metal sculptures, is back to painting.

He hasn’t stopped producing the colorful metal pieces depicting joggers, a tornado of butterflies, masses of flowers, or pedestrians walking on the street. It’s just that this 76-year-old artist enjoys trying something different every so often.

His paintings, shown in a solo exhibit titled “U-Turn,” curated by Vera Pilpoul and Arie Berkowitz, will be featured at the Tel Aviv Artists’ House from July 9 through August 1, 2020.

The oversized, realistic oils include a continuing series of Tel Aviv balconies, featuring straight cement lines, wooden shutters and peeling plaster, often with a line of laundry and a potted plant or two.

Part of David Gerstein’s car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)

The balconies continue a 1980s series that harks back to his Ramat Gan childhood, said Gerstein, with memories of the adults sitting in the shade of the balcony, drinking tea and eating cake.

They’re urban works, blending easily with Gerstein’s other series, a straight-on look at the hoods and front windshields of cars, mostly European models from photos taken by Gerstein during many trips abroad.

Alongside those are works of people on electric scooters, ubiquitously zipping along the streets and parked on the sidewalks of Tel Aviv.

“I wanted to go back to both, and from there, forward,” said Gerstein. “I feel that my years are limited; I’m 75, and my story will close, and I have a window of opportunity to continue with what I want to leave behind me.”

He added: “I missed the spontaneity of drawing.”

Gerstein’s painting draw the eye and feel familiar, showing common sights and objects, particularly in urban spaces. For Gerstein, the car series interests him because of the reflection of houses and trees in the car, as well as the person sitting behind the wheel, who’s only partially visible.

“I have a real respect for reality,” said Gerstein. “And this work is interesting because it shows I’m not frozen in what I do. There are other sides of what I can do.”

Part of David Gerstein’s car series, showing the reflection of houses and trees in the windshield of a car (Courtesy David Gerstein)

Gerstein first grabbed attention with his sculptural depictions of oversize vases of flowers, streets full of bike riders or a cat sitting on a windowsill.

He had figured out a method of transferring his cartoonish drawings to metal, then painting the wall sculptures with bright, industrial colors,.

His sculptures, said Gerstein, are a kind of expanded drawing.

“I found the way between drawing and sculpture,” he said. “It’s both, that’s what makes it unique.”

Artist David Gerstein will have a solo show at the Tel Aviv Artists’ House from July 9 to August 1, 2020 (Courtesy David Gerstein PR)

His wife told him not to waste his time on the sculptures, but Gerstein thought they were the true representation of him as an artist, something that was really his.

“I was stubborn and I luckily succeeded, but that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “I always go against the flow.”

When the works began gaining in popularity, fans wanted Gersteins of their own but couldn’t afford the NIS 5,000 price tag and constantly asked him if he had something smaller.

Gerstein began making smaller metal sculptures, printed and not painted, which kept their price down, and “people grabbed it,” he said. “I made something that everyone can have.”

One of artist David Gerstein’s familiar metal sculptures depicting a mass of butterflies (Courtesy David Gerstein)

It also introduced Gerstein’s work to the rest of the world.

These days, Gerstein works out of his studio building in Hartuv near Beit Shemesh, a standalone structure with several floors of studios, archives, and cutting and painting rooms for the 30 staffers who work with Gerstein, helping create his metal and paper sculptures and the smaller pieces that are cut on machines and painted by his staffers.

He’s been there for seven years, after working out of studios in Jerusalem’s industrial Talpiot neighborhood for several decades. Jerusalem was where Gerstein and his wife lived and raised their family after Gerstein graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in the 1970s.

One of artist David Gerstein’s more recent metal sculptures, depicting figures on the street, and the different types of people who coexist in urban settings (Courtesy David Gerstein)

Now his works — masses of butterflies along the side of a mall or a series of boats for the lawn of a seaside old age home in China — are bought and commissioned abroad in Asia, and no one in Israel sees that work, said Gerstein. “I make it and send it.”

Back home, however, Gerstein will be showing a side less seen at his new Tel Aviv exhibit, with his eye for people and places, for pigeons and olive trees, and the realism of life captured on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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