Dalia Amotz | Gan Shmuel By-Pass

Dalia Amotz (1938 – 1994) was born and raised in kibbutz Gan Shmuel. In her final years she returned to the kibbutz and was buried there. Though she lived her adult life in Jerusalem, she never renounced her past and connection to the kibbutz. At the same time, the kibbutz remains absent from her work. The closest her camera lens ever came to it was when she photographed the landscape around the kibbutz in the series Gan Shmuel By-Pass. How can you bypass something that’s ingrained in you? How do you refrain from photographing the thing that’s right in front of you? Amotz’s exploration of the kibbutz was done by exclusion. The darkened landscapes that fill every corner of her photographs remind us that this place, this land, has known more than the Zionist project, more than the here and now. Amotz’s choice not to reference a specific moment in her photographs and to lead the image away from fact has made them timeless.
Amotz was intimately familiar with the community she declined to photograph, as she had documented it extensively in her youth. The kibbutz’s archive houses hundreds of her negatives from the 1950s, depicting kibbutz events and branches and emphasizing the contrast between such aggrandizing documentation of the Zionist enterprise and her later photographs from the 1970s. At the same time, these negatives showcase her interest in busy compositions and allude to her courage to point her camera at the sun, deviate from the expected focus, flaunt photographic norms and follow her own path.
27 years after her death, Dalia Amotz has gradually found her place in the Israeli art landscape. Though her work went unrecognized in her lifetime, today she is part of the Israeli canon and her work inspires and influences many artists and photographers. Her texts are studied in art history and photography classes, her estate is being managed by Gordon Gallery and her photographs have appeared in numerous group and solo exhibitions. Essential questions about photography as an artform, which troubled the art world in the 1970s and 1980s, are no longer relevant in today’s interdisciplinary and multimedia world. Photography today is less of a masculine medium and there is more room for those who do not follow the ruling agenda. Such processes, along with the solo exhibition curated by Sarah Breitberg-Semel at the Tel Aviv Museum 20 years ago, have contributed to Amotz’ acceptance. Parts of her work, however, remain unknown. Her oeuvre includes more than her famous series “Dir Samit”, “Way of Life” and “Fields of Light”; There are other photographs still waiting to be discovered, and some of them are showcased in this exhibition.

With support from Gordon Gallery and the artist’s family

Dalia Amotz

Yaara Raz Haklai

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