Dalloul Art Foundation
ASAD AZI ASAD AZI

ASAD AZI, Palestine (1955)

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Bio

Written by Wafa Roz

Asad Azi was born in 1955, in Shefa-‘Amr, Lower Galilee, to Druze parents of Syrian and Lebanese descent. After completing his secondary education at a Jewish school in Kiryat Ata, he completed three years of compulsory service in the Israeli army. He studied sculpture, philosophy, and Hebrew at the University of Haifa, earning a BA in art in 1980. Azi attended Beit Berl Art College in Kfar Saba and Tel Hai Art College in Upper Galilee and pursued an MA in art history at Tel Aviv University in 1982. He co-founded Rega Group, an art gallery that serves as a space for artistic and political discussions. Azi has also written and published poetry in both Hebrew and Arabic and has taught art in Haifa and Jaffa. Though trained initially as a sculptor, the artist is now primarily known for his paintings.

Azi’s background has put him in a precarious position concerning both Jewish and Arab societies in Palestine. He holds an Israeli passport and is well versed in Hebrew, but he belongs to a religious and ethnic minority in Israel and is treated as a second class citizen there. His father was detained in a battle against Zionist forces in 1948; he then settled in Israel and joined the Israeli Border Patrol unit in 1956. Unfortunately, he was killed on the Syrian border in 1961. Azi was simultaneously privileged as the son of a fallen Israeli soldier and shamed as the son of an Arab whose loyalty was constantly in doubt. The eldest son amongst five children, Azi, was also expected to be the breadwinner of the family. In choosing to become an artist rather than pursue a more traditional career, Azi resisted this expectation – but this was not the first time he had defied conventional gender roles.

His mother had lost two baby boys before giving birth to Azi, and during her pregnancy vowed to the prophet Jethro that if she gave birth to another, she would dress him like a girl until he was six years old. She believed that dressing him like this would disguise him from the Angel of Death, thus protecting him from the tragic fate that had befallen her other sons.

Azi would later revisit this period of his life in the diptych Little Girl (1998), which explores gender classificationand dress code as a visual marker of social identity. On one side of the diptych lies a printed copy of his photo at the age of five, dressed in a girl’s robe and a ribbon on his head. On the other, paper slips announce his identity card number, his date of birth, his name, and his gender as male in Hebrew and Arabic. Indeed, Azi’s early exposure to questions of gender identity, along with his marginal status among both Israelis and Palestinians, contributed to the nuanced perspectives he expresses in his work, which often deals with concepts of hybridity and his own liminal identities. In 1984, he created a series of three interconnected “dyads” that address his relationship to his family and himself. The first depicts his parents as bride and groom, referring to his point of creation; the second shows a dualistic, hate-love relationship with his mother; and the third is a mirrored self-portrait that positions the artist as both self and other. The dyad series is in conversation with much of the artist’s work during the 1980s, when Azi painted his many alter egos as distinct individuals. The Madman series(1985), for example, draws inspiration from Miguel de Cervantes’s classic tale of Don Quixote, a Spanish nobleman who goes mad and embarks on a series of quests. Most of the paintings in this series depict Azi naked except for a pair of cheap slippers and, as a nod to Don Quixote, a Spaniard’s helmet. At times he rides a donkey, and at others a hobby horse, perhaps identifying with Cervantes’s titular character in his inability to distinguish between fact and fiction in pursuit of chivalry. 

From the late 1980s into the 1990s, Azi explored themes of death, birth, spirits, and sacrifice in paintings through images such as Fayum portraits, eggs, birds, and rams. During this period, he also produced monochromatic abstract compositions reminiscent of Mark Rothko’s color field paintings, though the majority of his work has tended towards a more eclectic combination of forms and colors. Drawing once more from his interest in hybridity, the artist complements Western artistic conventions with Eastern ornamental arabesque and floral forms associated with Islamic art, as well as folk crafts such as crochet, lace, and Palestinian embroidery. Azi’s work incorporates texts in Arabic, Hebrew, and English that simultaneously clash and harmonize in conversation with one another. This style draws inspiration from Rudolf Arnheim’s Art and Visual Perception, particularly from its articulation of Gestalt, according to which the whole is literally seen as greater than the sum of its parts. In his arrangements of colorful figures, symbols, prints, maps, calendars, and texts, Azi presents viewers with puzzle pieces to be combined individually, allowing his audience to create new wholes based on their personal psychological-visual perceptions. 

Azi’s work addresses cultural conflicts and social taboos through symbolism that is at once cryptic and personal. For instance, Red Rose (1994) inscribes the word RED in acrylic paint on paper, directly on top of the word ROSE, against a monochromatic red background. Separating the two words with a stenciled red rose, the artist uses blunt, opaque graphics to lament the forbidden love he shared with Lina Vizel Bonial, an Israeli Jewish woman. This interrogation of social norms extends to religion, as well. The Messiah series (1988), for example, depicts the complexity of faith and mythology by superimposing religious iconography onto images of an ordinary individual. Onto an appropriated archival photograph of an elderly Arab peasant, arrows, lines, golden dots, arabesque patterns, and a halo hint at the presence of divinity in the everyday and of the everyday in divinity. In Asad Azi, Self-portraitMessiah (1997-1998) Azi reprises this work only to replace the man’s face with his own image, onto which he collages a lace trim with a tassel that perhaps alludes to his cultural heritage. 

In recent years, Azi’s work has made explicit, playful references to the history of Western art. For example, Good Day Mr. Azi (2003), and The Painter Paints (2006) pay homage to well-known works by Courbet and Velazquez, respectively. In more recent works, Azi turns to fantasy and Greek mythology. His 2013 exhibition, Bacchanalia, features half-human, half-animal beings against backgrounds of colorful forests. These hedonistic creatures dance in the forests, peeking at couples having fun or making love. Quoting the exhibition’s curator Nava Sevilla Sadeh, “Azi’s hybridity is symbolic of socio-political otherness... it functions as an intermediary between the human and the divine.” Azi himself has defined the act of painting as “an act of ecstatic dance and mystic experience.”

Azi resides and works in Jaffa.

Sources

Ankori, Gannit. Palestinian Art. London: Reaktion Books, 2006. 

Mfa.gov.il. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/mfa-archive/1998/pages/panim- faces of art and culture in Israel- march-a.aspx.

Israel Museum Information Center for Israeli Art - Exhibitions Page. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://museum.imj.org.il/artcenter/newsite/en/exhibitions/?artist=Azi, Asad&list=.

"70 Percent Western, 30 Percent Eastern." The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. May 21, 2009. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.jpost.com/Arts-and-Culture/Arts/70-percent-Western-30-percent-Eastern.

"Artists Lifting the Veil." The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. October 02, 2008. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.jpost.com/Arts-and-Culture/Arts/Artists-lifting-the-veil.

"Druze Artist Finds Refuge in Fantasy - Post." Arab America. June 30, 2015. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.arabamerica.com/dr...

“Hagar Art Gallery - Asad Azi." Hagar. Accessed April 04, 2019. http://www.hagar-gallery.com/AsadAzi/asaden.html.

Littman, Shany. "In Fantasy, Druze Artist Embodies His Hybrid Existence in Israel" Haaretz.com. April 10, 2018. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.haaretz.com/israel...

Makhoul Bashir, and Gordon Hon.The Origins of Palestinian Art.Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013.

Melzer Gilad. Asad Azi: Wandering Rider, Exhibition Catalogue. AL Sabbar Association, The Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, and Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod,2015

Sadeh, Nava Sevilla, and Nava Sevilla Sadeh. "Bacchanalia, Dionysian Aspects as Symbols of Otherness in the Artwork of the Painter Asad Azi." Academia.edu - Share Research. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.academia.edu/75906...

“The I and the Other (Extract)." The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. September 01, 2008. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://www.jpost.com/Jerusale...

”The Origins of Palestinian Art - Paperback - Bashir ..." Accessed April 4, 2019. https://global.oup.com/academi...

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CV

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2018

Inverted Skin, The Bar David Museum for Art and Judaica, Kibbutz Bara’am, Occupied Palestine

2015

Wandering Rider, Mishkan Le'omanut, Museum of Art, Kibbutz Ein Harod, Occupied Palestine
Wandering Rider, Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, Occupied Palestine

2013

Bacchanalia, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Occupied Palestine

2010

The Pain of Knowledge - The Joy of Oblivion, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

2008

I Am the Son of Hagar, Oranim - Art Institute Gallery, Tivon, Haifa, Occupied Palestine

2007

Solo Exhibition, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

2006

Asad Azi: ''Confrontations'‘,Rosh Hanikra Gallery, Rosh Hanikra, Occupied Palestine

2005

Asad Azi, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

2004

Asad Azi - New Works 2004, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

2002

Dead Red Rose,N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

2001

Asad Azi, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Asad Azi - New Paintings 2000, Kfar-Saba Municipal Gallery, Kfar Saba, Occupied Palestine

2000

A Day after I am still Alive, University of Haifa, Faculty of Humanities, The Art Gallery, Haifa, Occupied Palestine

1999

‘Come bride - Wedding paintings’, Okashi Art Museum, Old Akko, Occupied Palestine
Very Private Collection, Limbus - Photography Place, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Voyage to History, The Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan, Occupied Palestine

1998

Asad Azi - New Works 1997 – 1998, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine 

1998

Solo Exhibition, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, Ramallah, Occupied Palestine
Solo Exhibition, Al-Wasiti Art Centre-Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

1997

Screens of Communication, David Yellin College Gallery, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

1996

Asad Azi – ‘Works from Book 1996’, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Asad Azi – New Works, Mizpe Hayamim Gallery, Rosh Pina, Occupied Palestine
Processed Fabrics, Kibbutz Be'eri Gallery, Kibbutz Be’eri, Occupied Palestine

1995

Asad Azi - Border Crossings, University of Haifa, Faculty of Humanities, The Art Gallery, Haifa, Occupied Palestine
Border Crossings,Arad Museum, Arad, Occupied Palestine

1994

Border Crossings,The Korin Maman Ashdod Museum, Ashdod, Occupied Palestine
Red Rose, Ghetto Fighters' House Art Gallery, Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot, Occupied Palestine     
White Window, Cabri Gallery of Israeli Art, Kibbutz Cabri, Occupied Palestine
Sub-Tropical, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

1993

Asad AziNew Works, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Asad Azi, New Works, Artifact Gallery, Jaffa, Occupied Palestine

1992

Asad Azi, Artifact Gallery, Jaffa, Occupied Palestine

1990

Asad Azi, New Works 1990, Oranim - Art Institute Gallery, Tivon, Occupied Palestine
Asad Azi, Artifact Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

1989

Asad Azi, Artifact Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

1988

Solo Exhibition, Ramat Gam, The Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan, Occupied Palestine

1987

Asad Azi, Artifact Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

1986

Asad Azi,Rega Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
42nd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

1985

Solo Exhibition, Ahad Haam 90, Art Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

Selected Group Exhibitions 

2018

Group Exhibition, Trumpeldor Gallery - Art Center, Beer Sheva, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, Artists' House, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

2017

Pearls, Art Space TLV, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

2016

All That Remains, Zaritsky Artists House, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

2015

Summer Exhibition, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Occupied Palestine
Diary of a Donkey, Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

2014

Mythological Encounters, Binyamin Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, Um El Fahem Art Gallery, Um El Fahem, Occupied Palestine
Revealing the Concealed, P8 Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
In-between, Beit Hagefen Gallery, Haifa, Occupied Palestine
Blood of the Maccabees: Memory and Bereavement in Israeli Art,The Negev Museum of Art, Be'er Sheva, Occupied Palestine

2013

Group Exhibition, Kastiel Design Center, Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Occupied Palestine

2012

WONDERLAND, Chagall Artists' House, Haifa, Israel and Grand Art, Haifa, Occupied Palestine
Salon Talks, Zaritsky Artists House, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Summer 2012 Show, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Portrait of Cain: Representation of Others in Israeli Contemporary Art, Avraham 
Baron Gallery, Beer Sheva, Occupied Palestine

2011

The Museum Presents Itself: Israeli Art from the Museum Collection, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine   

2010

The Rider, El Ma mal Foundation for Contemporary Art, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine.
Fresh Paint 3, Aman Gallery, Haifa, Occupied Palestine

2009

Men in the Sun, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Herzliya, Occupied Palestine
Cockeye: Male Nude in Contemporary Israeli Art, Gal-on Art Space, Tel Aviv, Yaffo, Occupied Palestine
Constellation: Israeli Contemporary Art, Ermanno Tedeschi Gallery, Turin, Italy

2008

In memory - Hanoch Levin, Tal Gallery, Kfar Vradim, Occupied Palestine
Correspondence: Contemporary Arab Artists, Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
My Own Body, Art in Israel 1968 – 1978, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Check-Post, Art in Israel in the 1980s, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Occupied Palestine
Ramla Camp, 56 Herzel Boulevard, Ofakim, Occupied Palestine
Ramla Camp, 4 Hazait street, Ramla, Occupied Palestine
Israeli, The Search for Identity, Stern Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Ori Reisman, Seminar, Self-Portrait, Cabri Gallery of Israeli Art, Kibbutz Cabri, Occupied Palestine

2007

Neighbours, Bet Igal Alon, Ginosar, Occupied Palestine
Meeting Between Cultures, Israel 2007, Oranim – Art Institute Gallery, Tivon, Occupied Palestine
Seminar Embroidery: Embroidery and Calligraphy in Modern Art in Israel,Ben Gurion     
University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel; The Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy, Beer Sheva, Occupied Palestine
Imagination - Israeli Art Exhibition 2007, Management Building, Bank Hapoalim, Tel  Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, Department of Fine Arts, University of Haifa, Haifa, Occupied Palestine

2005

November 4th, 1995: Assassination in retrospective, Bezalel Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Asad Azi and Meir Pichhadze - Foreign Language,Um El Fahem Art Gallery, Um El Fahem, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition - Sacrifice, New Gallery - The Artist's Studios, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
The Orange Segments, Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, Art Gallery at the Memorial Center, Kiryat Tivon, Occupied Palestine
The 80's in Israeli Art, Oranim - Art Institute Gallery, Tivon, Occupied Palestine

2003

In Memory - Hanoch Levin, The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
35 Prints - 35 Years of Occupation, Artists' House, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

2002

35 Prints - 35 Years of Occupation, Hagar Art Gallery, Jaffa, Occupied Palestine
Group exhibition, Hamishkan Le'omanut, Beth Meirov, Holon, Occupied Palestine
Artists Against Occupation, Beit Uri and Rami Nehushtan Museum, Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov Meuhad, Occupied Palestine
''Moment'' in 1986, Oranim - Art Institute Gallery, Tivon, Occupied Palestine
Focus on Painting, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Occupied Palestine
Assad Azi & Gideon Gechtman, Art Gallery, Kadima, Occupied Palestine

2001

localities.il - Israeli Art from the Collection and Elsewhere, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
Love at First Sight: The Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Israeli Art, Israel     Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

2000

Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport Prizes Winners Exhibition, The Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan, Occupied Palestine
Home Cinema - Screening uncut material of the film Yellow, Office in Tel Aviv Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine 

1999

Group Exhibition, Kfar-Saba Municipal Gallery, Kfar Saba, Occupied Palestine
Shimshon Crystal / ''Thirty Years of Collecting Israeli Art on Paper'‘, The Painters and Sculptors Association, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition,The Korin Maman Ashdod Museum, Ashdod, Occupied Palestine

1998

Group Exhibiton, Janco-Dada Museum, Ein Hod, Occupied Palestine 
Field of Memory - Group exhibition, Moscow, Russia.
Desert Cliché: Israel Now-Local Images, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA Nexus-Contemporary art center, Atlanta, USA; and New York University, New York, USA
To the East - Orientalism in the Arts in Israel, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel 
To the Tombs of the Righteous - Pilgrimage in Contemporary Israel, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
Israel at 50, The Jewish Museum, Washington DC, USA.
Group Exhibition, Pyramida Art Center, Haifa, Occupied Palestine
Preview, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

1997

Samson & Delilah Now, The Korin Maman Ashdod Museum, Ashdod, Occupied Palestine
Exhibition and Ceremony of Granting Prizes fromthe Ministry of Education Artists' House, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, Mm el-Fahem, Occupied Palestine

1996

Desert Cliché, Israel Now - Local Images, Arad Museum, Arad, Occupied Palestine 
Arab Artists Exhibition - Accumulated color layers,Painters and Sculptors Association in Israel, Haifa, Occupied Palestine  
Group Exhibition, Um El Fahem Art Gallery, Um El Fahem, Occupied Palestine
Windows: Glimpses of Seven Themes in Israeli Art, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
The Binding of Isaac - Exhibition Dedicated to Yitzhak Rabin, Many H Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine

1995

Group Exhibition, ''Yetzirot'' Gallery, Ilaniya, Occupied Palestine
Local Texture, Arad Museum, Arad, Israel; Hamishkan Le’omanut Beth Meirov, Holon, Israel; and Kfar-Saba Municipal Gallery, Kfar Saba, Occupied Palestine
Preview from the Rita and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Israeli Art - A Gift to the 
Israel Museum,Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine

1994

The Sense that Something has Disappeared, University of Haifa, Faculty of Humanities, The Art Gallery, Haifa, Occupied Palestine 
Art Focus - Local Texture, Beit Uri and Rami Nehushtan Museum, Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov Meuhad, Occupied Palestine
Saccharine - Group Exhibition, Oranim - Art Institute Gallery, Tivon, Occupied Palestine 

1993

Locus-Contemporary Art from Israel, Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, USA
Artifact in Yavne, The Art Workshop Gallery, Yavne, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, Artifact Gallery, Jaffa, Occupied Palestine
Between War and Peace,Petach Tikvah Museum of Art, Petach Tikva, Occupied Palestine
Back to Paradise, Zaritsky Artists House, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine
The Seam, Gallery of Art, Haifa University, Haifa, Occupied Palestine
Objects of Desire: Personal Objects in Israeli Art, Bat Yam Museum of Contemporary Art, Bat Yam, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, Bat Yam Museum of Contemporary Art, Bat Yam, Occupied Palestine
Group Exhibition, The Korin Maman Ashdod Museum, Ashdod, Occupied Palestine

1992

12 Israeli and Palestinian Artists, Artists' House, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine 

1991

From the Collection of Nelli Aman's Gallery, N&N Aman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Occupied Palestine 

1989

Portrait, Traveling Exhibition, Occupied Palestine

1986

Color Territories,The Israeli Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia, ItalyPlacescape, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine 

Awards and Prizes 

2013

Award, The Council of Art and Culture at the National Lottery

2000

Prize, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport

1996

Prize for the Encouragement of Creative Art, Ministry of Education and Culture

1993

Rotary Prize, Rotary Association 

1990

Beatrice Kolliner Prize for a Young Israeli Artist, Israel Museum, Jerusalem  

1987

Yad Layaad Prize awarded by the President of Israel

Collections

Buchmann Collection, Frankfurt, Germany
The Gallery for Palestinian Art, Umm el Fahm, Occupied Palestine
Hachmi Collection, London, UK
Lettre Magazine, Berlin, Germany
Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation, Beirut, Lebanon
Essl Museum, Vienna, Austria
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Occupied Palestine
Haifa Museum of Art, Occupied Palestine
Ashod Museum, Occupied Palestine
Okashi Museum, Acre, Occupied Palestine
Israel Discount Bank, Occupied Palestine
Leumi Bank, Occupied Palestine

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Videos

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Exhibitions

ASAD AZI Artwork