Biography | Zvi Lachman

Sculptor, painter, draughtsman, thinker and teacher, Zvi Lachman proves just how eclectic, diverse, and wide ranging the new figurative art can be. In his work on heads, in his exhibition "Ransom of the Father," in his works on paper, and in his explorative thinking about art, Lachman challenges the various orthodoxies currently reigning in contemporary Israeli art. In this age of reason and psychology, Lachman works against a general climate in which realism, autobiographical confession and ready-made, consumer art hold sway: his work engages archaic, classical and baroque traditions rather than celebrating the sharply defined object. Furthermore, in a climate that often associates identity with a direct response to Israeli politics and thematics, Lachman rejects such demands, finding his identity and his citizenship in his re-construction of traditional forms and subjects within an eclectic, multicultural art.

Born on the eve of Tishah B’Av (the ninth of Av, the traditional date of the destruction of the First Temple), 22 July 1950, to hard working and noble spirited parents, Lachman grew up in old Ramat Aviv, across from Shech-Munes. His father was a rabbi’s son and himself a ‘talmid chacham’ ("a learned scholar") as well as a socialist, and he worked as a builder in the well-known Israeli construction company "Solel Bone"; his mother, as Lachman describes her, "had art in her fingers." Both parents served as his role models in his desire "to create something out of nothing" and both helped to shape his spiritual and artistic world. His older brother, an architect, "exposed him to the new world," while his sister, who lived on a kibbutz, offered him an escape from the small city apartment in which he lived to the light-steeped outdoor spaces of Emek Beit Shean.

Lachman took his first degree in Civil Engineering at the Techniyon in Haifa (1968—1972), where he also studied sculpture with Moshe Sternshus and Isaac Danziger. During his military service, he studied architecture and worked as an architect (1972—1977). In 1973, Lachman married the poet Lilach (née Preminger) Lachman. Their children, Yakinton and Itay, were born in 1973 and 1978. After he finished his military service, he traveled with his family to New York, where he stayed for eight years, earning his living from odd jobs. There he was particularly influenced by the work of Paul Resika, a student of Hans Hoffman and a master of color; by Leland Bell, a leading formalist painter who encouraged Lachman’s work in dialogue with the masters; and by Bruce Gagner who introduced him to the work of Giacometti and was curator of the first group exhibition of Lachman’s work in N.Y. He received his M.F.A degree from Parsons in 1980, and continued his studies at the New York Studio, where he worked with Peter Agostini and encountered Mercedes Matter.

In an interview with Shaya Yariv, Lachman describes his first art lesson—watching his mother knitting: "It was a wonder to me how the purl and plain turned into a continuous mass. The worst moment came when she approached the final row and discovered that one of her stitches was out of line. What happened next would be torture for me. Mother would undo all those hours of work so as to repair the mistake.
Only much later, when she separated the sweater from her needles with a smile, 
did I understand that my suffering was her strength. That was an important lesson in art."

In the same interview, he notes a lesson he learnt when he first left Israel: "In New York I began painting from nature. Suddenly I had to connect with something outside myself. I remember the moment as one of crisis. I felt I knew nothing. As if I had to start from the beginning… Artists who were my teachers in school supplied the missing link in my education so that I could go on to the masters. At the same time I tried to understand nature by sketching at every opportunity in cafés, the park, at home, on the subway. Standing in studio confronting a model together with twenty other people, each looking at the same bit of nature and seeing it differently, brought home to me that nature and creative imagination are two sides of the same coin. After completing the whole learning process, one can and should set aside one’s knowledge in order to return to the starting-point and re-experience the original perception."

Although Lachman has always viewed himself first and last as an artist, he has become an influential teacher and has inspired a generation of students. He has taught at the Avni School of Art, Ramat Hasharon Art College, Bezalel Academy of Art, and now teaches painting & sculpture at the Tel Aviv
Museum of Art.

His solo exhibitions include "Sculpture," Herzlyia Museum (1990); Works on Paper, Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv (1990); "Head" [sculptures and works on paper], Gordon Gallery (1993); Painting and Drawing, Gordon Gallery (1995); Pastels, Gordon Gallery (1997); "Gilgamesh" [bibliophilic book], Sotheby’s, Tel Aviv (1999); "Ransom of the Father" [sculptures and works on paper], Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan (1999); Recent Works, 473 Broadway St., New York (2002); "Canvasses Against Black," Golconda Fine Art, Tel Aviv (2002).Most recently,"Poets' Portraits" exhibited at the Rubin Museum,Tel-Aviv(March 2007),and travelling to New York,where it will be exhibited from April 26 to the end of August, 2007. He has also participated in numerous group exhibitions in Israel and abroad–the most recent of these include "Portraits from antiquity to the present," Tel Aviv Museum (2002)—and in exhibitions protesting against the conquest in the Um-El-Fachem Gallery and in Ashdot-Yaakov Museum. In 2002 he was Artist in Residence for the Joseph and Anni Albers Foundation. At present he works in Jaffa and in Hadassa Neurim. His major current projects are "Poets' Portraits"; "Wreckages and Cradles" (drawings for cradle songs); and a series of sculptures on the motif of "Amida" (i.e.withstanding/bearing).