Gilad Efrat, Tamarisk, 2015, oil on canvas, 31.5 x 31.5 in.
It has been five years since Israeli artist Gilad Efrat’s last showed at Inman Gallery, and the work has changed dramatically. This is a substantial show, on view through through October 28, by the former Glassell CORE fellow, with 11 large paintings that are decidedly more energized by his bold, colorful palette. The move to abstraction, however, is the significant shift. The two largest pieces (69 x 98.5 inches) are powerful abstractions, although they reference both the landscape and the figure. Efrat’s technique of applying thick layers of oil and manipulating them with a palette knife and other tools creates angular geometric shapes reminiscent of synthetic cubism. And, like Hans Hofmann, Efrat “pushes and pulls” the paint with broad muscular strokes, creating areas of depth alongside flat areas of color.
All but two of the paintings are untitled, another shift that may signify Efrat’s move away from previous political subject matter such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the surface of Mars, the destruction of Europe after WWII and the Negev desert in Israel. Tamarisk and Tamarisk (Negev) from 2015 are definitely transitional. These paintings of the tamarisk tree, which has adapted to life in the Negev, are reminiscent of Mondrian’s tree studies from around 1910, which remained recognizable as trees but were evolving into abstracted representations. Efrat is no longer limiting his palette to somber colors, and the most effective paintings are those in which he uses vibrant primary colors. The title of the show, Resurface, reflects these changes, as he focuses on reworking his surfaces rather than expressing a narrative. Regarding these paintings, Efrat stated that “painting in an abstract manner is like the process of walking through a landscape and thinking—moving and thinking.” This new work feels much more improvised and fresh, full of energy and movement.