Belgian Artist Arie Mandelbaum Creates New Works for Honfleur Gallery

By Phil Hutinet on May 24, 2012
Arie Mandelbaum using a time honored tradition of heating rabit skin glue, chalk and poppy seed oil to create the wash upon which he will paint. Photo copyright East City Art.

Arie Mandelbaum,  one of two spring artists-in-residence sponsored by ARCH Development Corporation, will create a new series of work for Honfleur Gallery.    His studio space will be open for the upcoming LUMEN8Anacostia closing event which will take place June 16, 2012.

Earlier this year, the Belgian artist showed a retrospective of his work at the Jewish Museum of Brussels featuring over 70 paintings from the last decade.

Reception for Arie Mandelbaum's "Le Temps D'aimer est Aussi le Temps De L'Histoire" at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Photo Credit: Jewish Museum of Belgium.

A translation of his biography follows below.

Original French text by Lucie Buckerts-Antoine.  Translated from the French by Philip Hutinet

Arie Mandelbaum was born in 1939 in the Brussels neighborhood of  Gare du Midi of Polish-Jewish Parents.

Marqued by the Shoah, anchored in history despite him, the painter shows a precocious political commitment.  As a child, he joins the Zionist movement Hachomer Hatzair  and is reborn as Arie which signifies “Lion” in Hebrew, a translation of Leon, the artist’s original name.  At 14, he leaves Hachomer for the Jeunesses Populaires, a precursor to the Jeunesses Communistes.  It is at this time that he begins to distance himself from school believing that he can learn more about life on his own than what can be taught by a formal education.

He begins his forays into culture at the Lettres Françaises where he discovers the poems of Aragon, Eluard, Neruda and Hickmet who are influenced by the works of Picasso, Leger and Pignon.

Sans Titre (Abu Ghraib). (Untitled (Abu Ghraib)) 2008. Tempera and mixed media on paper glued on canvas. Photo Credit: Wolfgang Dengel.

His painting mirrors his questions and doubts which imposes itself as a necessity.  The young painter leaves his home at the age of 16 to take up residence in the dilapidated Hotel du Grand Miroir, the historic building where Baudelaire sojourned and which was destroyed in the 1960s.  There he meets the painter Ralph Cleeremans whom he befriends and meets other like-minded individuals like Camille De Taye, Marcel Arnould, Jacques Calonne, Marcel Marien and Benoit Quersin.  In 1956 he joins Leon Devos’ studio at L’Academie des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles after having spent a year with Paul Frognier.

Arie Mandelbaum exhibits his first solo show in Brussels in 1960.  Three years later, his exhibition at the Galerie Tamara Pfeiffer in Brussels earns him the infatuation of the Press who presents the young artist as one of most promising talents of the Belgian schools.

At this time, Bob Classens, an attorney and art historian, honors Mandelbaum with a laudatory speech.  Classens celebrates the pictorial mood of Mandelbaums’ paintings which he likens to the great Jewish painters Chagall and Soutine.  In 1965, the artist wins the Fondation Belge de la Vocation grand prize.

Triptyque, L'arrestation, l'execution de Lumumba, Okito et Mpolo. (Triptych, The Arrest, Execution of Lumumba, Okito and Mpolo). 2010-2011. Tempera and mixed media on paper glued on canvas. Photo Credit: Wolfgang Dengel.

Contemporary events, pariahs, family themes and reflections on his own existence unveil an existential anguish in his early drawings and paintings.  In 1969, based on his social convictions and aesthetic creed, Arie Mandelbaum joins the Mouvement Realiste Belge which includes painter like Jorg Madlener, Roger Sommeville, Federic Beunckens and Jacques Muller as well as his friend the sculptor Joseph Henrion.  However, very quickly, the artist breaks away from the group to pursue his singular vision which escapes all classification.

In the 1970s, faced with the emergence and power of his son’s work, the painter Stephane Mandelbaum,   Arie’s initial expressive style begins to show more restraint.  Doubt appears and will never leave Arie Mandelbaum.

In 1966, the artist begins his career as a painting professor at the Ecole D’Art D’Uccle.   He takes over the academy’s directorship from 1979 to 2004.  In the spirit of collaboration, Arie Mandelbaum interacts actively with other creators.  His tenure at the academy allows him to engage with a myriad of artists.  Among them, and of note, Boris Lehman, John Berger, Johan van der Keuken, Paul Meyer, Jean-Michel Palmier and Mauirce-Moshe Krajzman.  These encounters result in Arie’s willingness to nourish a reflection on painting fueled by other artistic disciplines.  In this vein, as of 2003, Arie begins acting in plays by Claude Schmitz.

Currently, the artist pursues his oeuvre in Brussels, Fontenoille and New York.