Department of Art and Art History Special Program

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Mar 4

Members of New Barbizon Painters to Complete Residency at UT Austin in Spring 2017

Mon. November 7, 2016

by Moriah Reyes

The words Plein Air Painting with transparent shadow superimposed over blue square

The Department of Art and Art History is pleased to embark upon a collaboration with the Israel Institute and The University of Texas at Austin’s Jewish Studies program to host the “New Barbizon School,” an Israeli artist collective in the Spring of 2017. The group comprises of five women artists who all studied and were trained in traditional art academies in the former Soviet Union, and later in Israel and Europe. The group takes its name from The Barbizon School that opposed the Romantic movement and formalism that dominated nineteenth-century art in favor of the style now known as French Realism, which focused on painting scenes from nature and rural life.

The New Barbizon School formed to offer their contemporary version of en-plein-air painting, attempting to create situations in which more traditional painting practices are celebrated. Painting in the field (i.e., en plein air) provides an unmediated encounter with the painted subject. In the duration of painting, the artist gets to observe a slice of people’s lives, talk to them and, for a short time, become a part of their world.

Though each artist in the Barbizon collective has their own independent career and style, their shared praxis relies on the rejection of a culture of perceived self-reflection in conceptual art and a hope to expand on the definition of what it means to be contemporary. Their methodology challenges the current art climate by mirroring contemporary reality, making art about their immediate environment while situating themselves within it.

The group travels to various parts of the country to paint their observations, creating work from an urban perspective. Instead of going to forests or fields, they have taken to the gritty streets of urban Haifa and Jerusalem. They actively seek out diverse, far-away locations such as Bedouin markets in Rahat, an army base in Negev and a refugee camp in Bethlehem, to bring those “forgotten ones,” like Israeli foreign workers or immigrants, from the background of the picture to the foreground. Though primarily concerned with the aesthetic subject, the New Barbizon members recognize the documentary element of their work and its political implications. Painting from reality becomes a construction, a political and social tool. The group’s own immigration from the former Soviet Union has made them sensitive to the challenges of integrating into Israeli society, adding a double conceptual layer to their work: on one hand they bring a socialist and collective spirit to the Israeli artistic scene, and on the other their Russian-identity reinforces their position of “isolated majority” within the Israeli population. While in residence, UT students will be given opportunities to join The New Barbizon Artists in painting and drawing from an urban perspective while discussing the cultural significance of this experience and its historical context.

The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program is bringing The New Barbizon School to UT to provide students a chance to work with the artist collective in The New Barbizon School’s chosen environment and techniques, outdoors from observation.

The residency is supported by the Israel Institute, which is dedicated to enhancing knowledge of study of modern Israel.

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