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Supported by the Ministry of Culture and Mifal Hapais 

Editing: Yasmin Halevi

Translation: Mor Ilan

Research Assistance: Hani Halaban


Additional Information

Opening Hours during October

On Tuesday October 1, Rosh Hashana, "Murals" Exhibition will open between 11am-3pm.

On Tuesday and Wednesday 8-9/10, Yom Kippur, The exhibtion will be closed.

On Tuesday-Thursday 15-17/10 during Sukkot holiday, the exhibtion will open between 10am-4pm instead of the regular opening hours. 

Related Items

Murals is an ongoing exhibition and project that explores Israeli wall art and the changing rationale behind it while also questioning its role in current public spaces. It has evolved through a series of new works established in the compound of the Israeli Center for Digital Art and will be extended to additional sites in the near future.

Murals, or wall art, refers to artwork executed on building walls and architectural environs. The modern version of this genre emerged in Israel in the 1930s and reached its peak in the 1950s in kibbutzim, government institutions, and other public or municipal sites. Gideon Ofrat claims that - “Wall art aspires to be popular. It is not the prized acquisition of the wealthy few, the well-to-do. Its incorporation into the architecture or inside spaces of the building combines monumentalism with simplicity, didacticism, and figurativeness.” Historically, the main element in this type of art is its address to the general public, both in form and in content. Its first appearance in Israel is linked to the creation of a historical narrative of the “New Jew” and his national presence in the area. The common imagery of wall art from this period ties between man and earth, between the biblical and historical-local renewal.

But Murals are not only mean to present a narrational framework; it is a range of familiar shapes, public ornamentations, an architectural landscape encircling us in any urban environment. Unlike monuments, it is not sanctified by death and commemoration, and can therefore remain a purely aesthetic form, the backdrop for humanity passing by. This is a form of art that turns to the public in an ongoing fashion, an incidental visual or figurative experience, fleeting before humanity, sometimes leaving an unconscious mark. In that sense, it has the potential to be an experience that exceeds the didactic image it (may have) originally contained.

Another important distinction to make is that wall art is different from graffiti (an artform also focused on artistic expression in public) as it is almost always commissioned. It is invited to become part of the official nature of the public space and address of the public at large. In contrast to the intrinsically anti-establishment cultural roots of graffiti, wall art is engaged in a complex relationship with the narrative espoused by the establishment, at times as its mouthpiece, its opposer, or even its overt or covert judgement.

This project examines the relevancy of wall art today – what significance could this artform contain? How can it exist through institutional sponsorship? What role and status does it have when facing the passersby? And what is its relationship with the visual urban landscape, now dominated by a neo-capitalist economy.

The gallery spaces include sketches and works by three leading Israeli artists active from the late ‘50s: Gershon Knispel (born in Cologne, Germany 1932-2018), Avraham Ofek (born in Bulgaria 1935-1990), and Pinchas Eshet (born in Romania 1935-2006). In various stages of their artistic careers, these three participated in the local wall art tradition maintained in public sites, employing numerous mediums – painting, reliefs, and ceramics. However, they each in their own way deviate is some manner from the fundamental logic behind wall art as it evolved from the 1930s kibbutzim dining hall walls, the military bases, and government institutions. Their artwork offers a unique perspective worthy of investigation, as it proposes a new perspective on the possible significance of wall art today.

Gershon Knispel created large-scale paintings, ceramic walls, and sculptural reliefs of iron that decorate public buildings in the city of Haifa and its surroundings and in Brazil. Among his best-known works are the Paz Bridge and the façade of the Haifa Sports Stadium, the Dimona municipal building, and the monument commemorating the fatalities of Earth Day in Sakhnin that was co-created with Abed Abdi. Of the social-realist style, Knispel’s works dealt with local political and social issues. In his early career, he was known for large paintings on canvas, the most noted of which was the 1950s painting “The Employment Bureau”. Later, he developed ideas for wall paintings in a singular style characterized by heavy square segments of aluminum that shaped an array of crevices and protuberances to emphasize the image created through filtered sunlight. His imagery often focused on figures rarely seen in public – Achmed, the Arab worker waiting in line in an employment bureau office, along with all the other unemployed, immigrants from Morocco arriving for the first time to Dimona and leaving their culture and legacy behind them, or stooped-back manual laborers. In that sense, Knispel’s wall art brought to the forefront the marginalized and disregarded instead of the heroic and the sublime.

The large murals by Avraham Ofek were painted, among other places, in Jerusalem’s central post office, the Tel Aviv University main library, and Haifa University. The exhibition includes sketches of several of his works, testimony to his misgivings and reservations regarding Israel’s social-political reality. His preliminary sketches and drawings for Dream and Reality (1984-1988), his most important mural exhibited along two walls of Haifa University, reveal the duality between the utopian national dream and the multitude of ways it devolved into a nightmare of corruption. The uplifting and idealized style in which the figures begin on one side of the wall is transformed into a series of demonic and menacing images at its center. Sketches for Quarrel over a Plot of Land (1970), an outlined proposal for the IDF Central Command dining hall that was never completed, reveal a violent and graphic struggle. Men are seen fighting each other in an orchard, bare-handed, depicting the violence of the 1929 Massacres. Here also, Ofek’s work strays from the traditional role of historically centered public wall art, no longer inspirational or an attempt to present viewers with a chosen narrative, but a critical and subversive vision of the future to come.

Unlike Knispel and Ofek, Pinchas Eshet did not address social and political issues directly. Eshet was a multitalented artist that employed a range of techniques and styles in his works. He was one of the founding members of the “Eser Plus” (“Ten Plus”) group, and during the 1970s developed a unique method of creating 3-dimensional geometric shapes to produce colorful and abstract paintings, Pop art sculptures in bold hues that were hung on walls. This series included works exhibited in 1975 in the 13th Biennale in São Paulo. Among his most famous wall art pieces were a ceramic work that encircled the internal space of the Asia House lobby in Tel Aviv. Eshet often worked in abstracts, whether color, form or volume, focusing on the experiential, aesthetic, perceptional, and conscious dimensions of the public space. He did not attempt to reflect figurative reality, but instead created visual contrasts that evoked reactions and introspection among viewers regarding the familiar and the mundane. In his works he aspired to undermine the obvious elements of our sensory environment, and to do so in the public sphere through daily and random encounters.

This historical exhibition presents the sketches, layout, and documentation of several central works by these artists. It looks into the changing nature and particular distinctions of this intermediary generation; while upholding the traditional relationship of public art and commissioning institutions, they also broke from the national narrative of the previous generation, through either critique or by expanding beyond the confines of public walls with abstracts. These works and the deviation they create are an opportunity to consider a possible rationale for contemporary wall art in our changing public arenas.

The new series created and planned in this project dwells on the walls of public spaces as they are today, leading to a fresh perspective on space and our human habitation of it. The work addresses historical aspects, ideas, or other familiar styles, proposing a new, alternative, or combined logic; the objective is to think on what is contemporary in public spaces, on local and competing narratives, and on the potential to create environments that are not designed merely to meet neo-capitalist guidelines.

Some of the works in the project deal with the material nature typically associated with wall art, along with the juxtaposition of its traditional monumentalism and the erosion and transience revealed over time. In recent years, Ra'anan Harlap created a series of wall artworks from light materials, such as reused wood planks that configure various geometric shapes, 3-dimensional pieces that seem to have been crammed into the wall. The transient material nature of the works, much like the one produced for this exhibition, are a contradiction to the heavy iron and concrete of the latter 20th century, no longer seeking their eternal permanence. The work presented here depicts an area around a pit, a gaping and seemingly endless shape the audience may delve into in their imaginations.

Other works in the project offer up other genre ancestors and new connections between wall art and visual urban spaces. They join a different historical sequence in the visual wall art landscape. Jessy, a work by Alona Rodeh, was inspired by the relation to billboards and branding so characteristic of the urban-commercial environment, one that has taken over far more space than any art. In this work, the brand focuses on the neighborhood in which the Center is located, the possibility of celebrating its existence and the social-cultural role it plays.

Entrance A (4 Ha'amoraim St.), a work by Hilla Toony Navok, relates to office signage. The shapes and materials that comprise her work are familiar from lawyer offices, hospitals, and government buildings but the signage is stripped of its content, left only with its original shape, providing an unforeseen vision. Thus, the material characterization of the signs becomes a figurative sculpture made of materials from other fields.

In keeping with works of Pinchas Eshet from the ‘70s and ‘80s, 53 balls by Shachar Freddy Kislev deals in the beautiful shapes and geometric landscape of architectural walls. Kislev uses colored ceramic tiles that coalesce into patterns that create order, fluidity, and form on the Center’s entrance wall. However, in this work the artist’s decisions on aesthetic arrangement is completed using an algorithm. Kislev created software that generates patterns of laying ceramic tiles with a simulation of balls falling on curved bowls, veering off with the encounter with each ball. Here, the artist’s role entails defining the rules by which the program organizes the shapes to formulate sequences and sub-sequences of elements in different directions. Inside the Center is a presentation of how the algorithm worked for this wall arrangement, and the results are exhibited on a screen.

Elad Larom's work on what was previously a school gym is founded on one of the most interesting concepts of the wall art genre: political murals that reference the national conflict in Northern Ireland throughout the latter half of the 20th century. These are large works usually displayed on street walls or on houses to present the narrative of one side or other, depending on location. These basically function as posters depicting real figures or actual events associated with the struggle (protests, terrorist attacks, victims, and emergencies), along with political slogans and symbols. Through such wall paintings, artists throughout the years managed to actively participate in the struggle and distinguish between the warring parties. In planning his work, Larom gathered materials from the “Complete Jessy Cohen Museum” archive, as well as children and teens that use the gym as an open space. The historical records and recognized images are deconstructed in his work, reassembled with fantasies and popular imagery of the site and the still-unfolding story of the Jessy Cohen neighborhood.

Additional wall paintings created in the neighborhood in recent years in collaboration with the Center include a work by Aurele Mechler and the gym kids on another wall of that building, from 2015; this depicts a lion inspired by Bob Marley song “Lion of Zion” and reggae culture in general. Another is a series of paintings titled The Ten Commandments of the Shomer HaTzair Youth Movement Following Shraga Weil by Meir Tati (2011) and the youth movement’s branch headquarters in the neighborhood (5 Arba Aratzot St.). In the gallery space one may see the wall painting outlines, originally created in 1946 by Weil, with a colored circle that creates a disruption that distills the image and poses questions regarding the nature of these ten commandments and the relevancy of this youth movement in contemporary times. This links wall art and the local narrative, weaving a tale about and with the locals who live there.

Cultural Landscape by Itai Raveh, exhibited in the gallery space, is wall art that deals in wall art. Raveh creates collages of paper and light materials showing fragments of existing wall art and other popular images. The combination connects this wall art to its local surroundings and narrative as they envelope it historically and spatially. The associative connections between art and its environment proposes a possible interpretation of wall art’s role in the broader context of local cultural imagination and how it ties into the landscape surrounding it in the public sphere.

The exhibition and project Murals are part of ongoing research by the Israeli Center for Digital Art’s Institute for Public Presence.

Our thanks to Mifal HaPais and the Ministry of Culture, as well as the Ofek, Eshet, and Knispel families for their generous contributions.

The project is aimed at producing a series of new works in Holon in future months and years, rehabilitating existing murals, and conducting a series of academic and performative events to explore public environments and the many ways in which artists may influence them.


Udi Edelman






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