Gabriel Wolff

“The Hebrew letters bridge between the physical and the spiritual world.

For thousands of years they pass the essence of Jewish identity to new generations

“So why letters?” 

 

Artist Statement

We’re Jewish. Letters are important to us. For the last 2000 years, every Jew learned how to read when they were three. Hebrew letters are all around us from day one, no matter where we grow up. In Jewish mysticism, letters are considered to be kind of the atoms of creation. It is said that if one letter should disappear from the alphabet, the world would collapse. We are עם הספר, “the people of the book”. And so even though most Jews don’t speak Hebrew, almost all of them read it. Them, and their parents, and their parents’ parents. And so on until the times of the first temple.

 

So what would make more sense than letting letters express Jewish identity?

 

Of course, given the painful lack of a tradition of creative Hebrew calligraphy, I had to borrow from all over the place. A big influence was Islamic calligraphy. That glorious and rich history, a creative outburst limited, and thus sparked, by our common biblical prohibition on creating images, has been inspiring me since I first held a nib in my hand. Old masters like Mohammad Hosni or Hamid Aytaç, as well as contemporary calligraphers such as El Seed and Eduard Dimasov are continuously influencing my work. 

 

Another important influence is the European tradition of Latin letter calligraphy. Living in a Spanish and German speaking environment, I’m drinking from the contemporary genius of artists like Brody Neuenschwander and Cláudio Gil.

Most importantly, though, growing up in Jerusalem, I had the privilege to have almost unlimited access to the vast amount of Hebrew documents, preserved in the various archives in the city. I spent years, copying Hebrew letters from Kethuboth, scrolls, letters and other documents, written over the last 2000 years. This practice gave me a solid understanding of the ever changing character of Hebrew letters. This understanding is the base for everything. 

 

But not only works on canvas and paper are important to me. For the last 15 years, I have dedicated a lot of my time and artistic effort to Hebrew tattoos. Tattoos as a tool of manifestation of modern Jewish identity has become one of my main sources of expression and inspiration. The constant dialogue about Jewish identity that is part of the process of creating art for a living canvas has broadened my horizon regarding the possibilities of a collective Jewish identity in our times and opened new prospects of Hebrew calligraphy as an art form.

“I feel that the essence of being Jewish lies in adapting to

new surroundings without losing that which makes us unique”

EXHIBITIONS

  • 2019 - Group exhibition, Brooklyn Jewish Art Gallery

  • 2018 - Art and design for the Israeli pavilion stand in WOMEX, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

  • 2018 - Solo exhibition, Kunstadvent Friedrichshagen, Berlin 

  • 2017 - Speaker at a panel on Jewish visibility, Limmud Festival, Birmingham

  • 2017 - Group exhibition, Galeria MVD, Montevideo

  • 2016 - Group exhibition, JeanMichelBerlin, Berlin

  • 2016 - Solo exhibition, AMIA Jewish community, Buenos Aires

  • 2016 - Performance, Carnegie Hall, NYC

  • 2015 - Group exhibition, MAMAN Fine Art, Buenos Aires

  • 2014 - Solo exhibition, Chalom Jewish community, Buenos Aires

  • 2013 - Group exhibition, Envoy Enterprises, NYC

  • 2011 - Group exhibition, HaMarakia, Jerusalem