Foreword | Udi Edelman and Yael Messer

Issue No. 19 of Ma’arav engages with the artist Ezra Orion and is published simultaneously with the “Launch Sites” exhibition that presents the artist’s main works as well as special material from his private archive.

Ezra Orion (1934-2015) was born in Kibbutz Beit Alfa and grew up in Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan. In the early 1950s he studied at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and in the mid-1960s he continued his studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art in London. When he returned to Israel in 1967, he moved to Midreshet Sde Boker in the Negev, where he founded the Desert Sculpture Gallery, taught, and created until the early 2000s. Alongside his work as a sculptor, Orion was a poet and philosopher, and he also founded and edited the periodical Svivot.

During his studies Orion focused on iron and stone sculptures in dimensions suited for gallery spaces, but after he completed his studies and moved to Sde Boker in the Negev he began thinking about sculpture that is no longer limited to gallery and urban space dimensions: sculpture that would envelop the spectator, contain him, and evoke in him a spiritual existential experience. From then on Orion began to create situations, moments, and environments that were designed to serve as “launch sites” for human consciousness. The aspiration to create an experience that confronts human beings with the transcendent and the cosmic became the increasingly irrefutable logic throughout Orion’s work. His field of action moved to the desert expanse, to movements and changes in the Earth’s surface, and then to outer space. This exhibition traces Orion’s creative development from Architectural Sculpture, through Tectonic Sculpture and the Mars Project, to Intergalactic sculpture. All these are examined through original works alongside documents from the artist’s archive, which are presented here for the first time. A clear line can be drawn from Orion’s early sketches in the 1960s to his space projects. According to him, they were all part of an attempt to engender a unique human and personal observation.

For this issue we invited artists, curators, and researchers to address Orion’s work in different ways. Some of them worked with Orion on his main projects, while others encountered him at different stages in their life. They all identify him as a distinctive and exceptional artist in the Israeli landscape. The Orion issue will continue growing throughout the duration of the exhibition with additional articles and material.

Udi Edelman and Yael Messer, The Institute for Public Presence, Holon, 2016