Lev Stern. Architecture of Time

Wrocław - Jerusalem

exhibition open till 26th of February, 2023

Lev Stern is a Polish-Israeli painter, sculptor and architect whose work focuses on emotions and memories associated with his personal journey between two cities: Wrocław, where he grew up, and Jerusalem, where he spent over fifty years.

He was born into a family of Polish Jews in the town of Yenakiyev, located in present-day Ukraine. The artist’s parents came from Krzemieniec, from where they fled eastward in the fall of 1941, after the Nazis occupied the city. In 1948, they came to Wroclaw and settled in a tenement house on Szczytnicka Street. In 1959, in the wake of the first wave of the anti-Semitic persecutions, they decided to emigrate to Israel.

Lev Stern graduated from the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at TECHNION Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. In 1973 he moved to Jerusalem, where he opened his own architectural studio. During the ten years of the studio’s operation, he completed a number of residential and public buildings. At the same time, he also designed urban sculptures and taught at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Fine Arts.

At the beginning of the 1980s, however, the most important area of artistic expression for Lev Stern became painting. He gradually moved away from the drawing board towards the easel. In 1983, the artist definitively closed the architectural studio and moved to Paris. Four years later – after almost three decades of absence – he returned to Wrocław, where he has lived and worked since 2011.

Lev Stern’s multifaceted work, rich in meanings and contexts, is a constant return to places that are important to him and the memories they evoke. The landscape of ruined Wrocław, the daily route to school amid piles of rubble, the blinding sun and the bright stone of Jerusalem are themes and images that have had a lasting impact on his art as a whole. Its various aspects are united by the working method. The artist composes his paintings based on his experience as an architect: he juxtaposes his canvases as if combining geometric solids, “builds” multilevel and three-dimensional objects out of them, strives to capture harmony and classical proportions. Stone, which for years has been the primary material of Lev Stern’s architecture, returns on the canvas as an overarching golden motif, bringing to mind the walls of Jerusalem with its color, “warmth” and texture.

The exhibition shows together Lev Stern’s works from different fields of art, created over several decades. This makes it possible to trace the dynamics of changes in the artist’s work. At the same time, it poses questions to the viewer about the interrelationships and connections between architecture, painting and sculpture, Wrocław and Jerusalem, personal experience and universal history.