Anyone familiar with Israeli art spanning the last few decades will recognize the iconic sheep motif of artist and sculptor Menashe Kadishman (1932-2015). Kadishman’s oeuvre looms over Israel’s artistic landscape and is still prevalently exhibited and collected. Over decades, Kadishman transformed the sheep he herded as a child into powerful anti-war paintings and sculptures that decry the sacrifice of soldiers, likening them to sheep being led to the slaughter. But contemporary galleries in Israel have moved on from the likes of Kadishman to a broad range of artists working in a variety of mediums and techniques.
On a recent visit I dropped into the beautiful new Rothschild49 Art Gallery in Tel Aviv. There, I was introduced to a number of contemporary artists mostly producing large-scale works such as those by the artist Tommy, who has successfully married mixed media with pop art tropes while still maintaining a fresh originality through textured layering.
Sommer Contemporary has always been one of my go-to art stops in Tel Aviv. It took me a while to find their new location and when I did finally navigate my way up several flights of stairs and into a small space off a balcony overlooking a super chic courtyard eatery, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the artist on exhibit was an old friend and colleague, Shai Azoulay. I recognized his larger canvases and was delighted to discover his small scale daily paintings attractively displayed in a room of their own (see some examples below). There is something quintessentially Israeli about Shai’s intuitive paintings.
I also visited the high-end Eden Gallery with branches in major cities around the world. This gallery has some of the most beautifully curated spaces I have encountered. The artists are of the highest caliber, sharing a bold sense of color, a mastery of slick new materials and distinctive contemporary styles. The artist who goes by the name of SN comes from an impressive background as a National Geographic photographer and now exhibits his new series of photographs enhanced by the brilliant colors of his trademark butterflies.
Gal Yosef’s stunning, oversized digital images (example below) demonstrate his impressive 3D and digital sculpting skills, and are often staged in his uniquely crafted ‘cartooniverse’.
At the same gallery (Shabazi 39, Tel Aviv), I admired the large graphic paintings conceived by Rachel Ehrenhalt, a young artist recently graduated from the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem.
Some of the street art in Tel Aviv was equally interesting and whimsical:
This next example of graffiti art stood out to me because it brought to mind a ceramic mixed media piece I created years earlier called ‘TV Baby’. The similarity is striking, isn’t it?
I hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour of the Tel Aviv art scene. And in case you blinked and missed my 5 seconds of fame, I was mentioned in a New York Times article about Museum podcasts!!
Until next time…