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First exhibition in Israel of works by Friedrich Adler opens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Friedrich Adler, Positive-Negative Surface Pattern, batik textile design, Hamburg, ca. 1934, pencil and India ink on paper, 42.4x42.6 cm. Courtesy Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München.

TEL AVIV.- This is the first exhibition in Israel of works by Friedrich Adler (Laupheim, 1878 – Auschwitz, 1942), a member of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Craft Alliance) – an association of designers, architects and manufacturers who paved the way, in the first half of the twentieth century, from Historicism to Jugendstil, to Art Deco and budding Modernism in Germany. The group set out to instill "style and spirit" in the industrial world of capitalism and in the urban landscape (often depicted critically by George Grosz, see lithograph), believing in art's ability to effect a change in society and in the religious hegemony.

Adler, considered one of the earliest modern industrial designers, was a contemporary of Walter Gropius (1883-1969), who founded the Bauhaus School in Weimar. Indeed, many in Adler's educational and professional environment – the Debschitz School in Munich and the Deutscher Werkbund – promoted standardization in the applied arts and thus had a direct influence on the Bauhaus agenda. Others, including Adler, developed an individual artistic language. Their work is of special interest, presenting as it does an alternative route to the Bauhaus concept of Modernist art. Unlike the Bauhaus artists, Adler did not entirely relinquish ornament. Basic characteristics of his work include small beaded clusters and stylized organic forms, new and free line ornament related to his expertise in stucco decoration, and a network of veins tapering upward in tight spirals.

The exhibition showcases the full range of Adler's work, from his early days as a student and then teacher at the Debschitz School, through Judaica objects that were part of a synagogue interior of his design shown at the important Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in 1914, to his works from the early 1930s, including some of the first Bakelite designs in the world and batik textiles printed with a patent of his own invention.

The Twelve Tribes Window (1919) of stained glass was designed by Adler as part of a complete synagogue interior for an agricultural training settlement (Hachshara) at Markenhof, in the Black Forest of Germany, and was donated to the Tel Aviv Museum in 1932.

Also featured in the exhibition are video interviews with the artist's 93-year-old daughter Rina, a member of Kibbutz Neot Mordechai; with Aviv Livnat, lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem and at Tel Aviv University; and with Laurie Stein, a specialist in Modernist art and the Deutscher Werkbund from Berlin; excerpts from Adler's essays; and a selection of the artist's personal letters.

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