This article is a guest post on NoCamels and has been contributed by a third party. NoCamels assumes no responsibility for the content, including facts, visuals, and opinions presented by the author(s).
Yael Shapira is the founder of Alternative Tel Aviv, a leading research laboratory in the Israeli urban art field that provides boutique private tours for those interested in contemporary art and urban culture. Shapira is an art historian specializing in urban art.
This has been an incredible year for graffiti and street art all over the world, but here in Israel it may actually have been the best yet. Alternative Tel Aviv’s top 10 graffiti and street art choices for 2018 and we can tell you right now that 2019 is going to be all about the hardcore Hebrew graffiti.
A lot of classic graffiti pieces made our list this year. This one’s by Frenemy, originally from Austin, Texas, who has been living and working in Tel Aviv for the past few years. We just love his graffiti lettering style, though he’s best known for his street paintings depicting city life and urban culture. Street art admirers would recognize Frenemy’s signature baseball cap, which can be found in every piece of his we’ve seen so far.
This massive piece with intricate details was made by some of our favorite artists, the Brothers of Light (who are actually brothers) Elna and Gab from Jerusalem. The artwork was part of the Walls Festival Jerusalem, an international mural festival that transforms urban neighborhoods with public art. It opened to the public last May in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood.
This piece is filled with Middle Eastern elements such as camels, palm trees, the “Hamsa” and the “evil eye” symbols, which are considered good luck charms in the region. We think that this piece is in fact about luck and also about dreams, or maybe even about the connection between luck and dreams.
Note for example the “Mifal HaPais” booth (Mifal HaPais is the national lottery of Israel) with the signs on it that says “No Luck.” There is also a big billboard that reads “Our dreams are all we have” and the half-white dove half-airplane, flying in from the top right. A white dove with an olive branch in its beak is a known symbol for peace, a dream everyone in our region holds.
Emerging into our consciousness just last year, this guy, who we don’t personally know yet, has made such a big impression on us that he’s occupying two spots on our list. In this specific piece, Mr. Bombastic wrote the Arabic word “Salam” which means “peace” and “hello” (like “shalom” in Hebrew).
Writing this seemingly simple word in Jaffa’s flea market area and incorporating the Israeli shekel sign into it, Mr. Bombastic made us think about the classic graffiti field in Israel and the commercial possibilities, if any, for the artists practicing it (as opposed to street art, which has become very mainstream and commercially successful in Israel over the past decade). In any case, we love the old school graffiti style in Arabic lettering and hope to see more of those this upcoming year.
Speaking of Hebrew graffiti writing, we simply adore this piece done by Keos, one of the original, name-based, Hebrew graffiti pioneers. Done in the port of downtown Haifa, this piece depicts several kinds of vehicles, from a pink flashy sports car to a flying helicopter. Note the off-white van on the left, filled with little graffiti tags – an homage to the artist’s friends and colleagues.
The now well-known “Hatzilu” (“Help”) piece by urban artivist Shredder was first shown at the Freshness urban art exhibition on May 12, 2018. Pasted-up on an outside wall of the Pussycat strip club, which operates illegally in Atarim square in Tel Aviv, this piece was a very important act of resistance. It is composed of the written testimonies of women who work/worked in prostitution, as well as segments from a hideous Facebook page where men rate prostitutes.
The piece was shown several times since then in various cities and exhibitions around the world, but when we stumbled upon it during our graffiti tour of the Kiryat Hamlacha compound in south Tel Aviv, an area known for illegal activity including prostitution, we found the message powerful. It also made us think about the sight-specific qualities of street art as an art medium.
The next two pieces on our list are on the same giant wall and are both done for the Walls Festival Jerusalem. This one is by the Bicicleta Sem Freio (Bicycle Without Brakes) crew, a Brazilian design and illustration collective.
They were some of the carefully selected foreign urban artists who were invited to participate in the Wall Festival initiative. We love their surrealist and colorful style, especially in this magnificent piece, depicting a woman with a head and neck made of exotic birds and plants.
Originally from Haifa, the Broken Fingaz Crew is the most well-known Israeli graffiti collective worldwide. This year, this brilliant crew managed not only to pull off the Walls Festival Haifa’s second edition (in October 2018) and the Walls Festival Jerusalem’s first edition under Ghostown, their clothing and production label, but also to showcase their unique art in various exhibitions around the world. To top it off, they worked on stop-motion animation for two of U2’s latest videos.
This particular piece seemed to be influenced by their two month-stay in India a year ago, where they painted some walls and shot the video clip for U2. They say they were very inspired by the culture.
Another piece by the talented Mr. Bombastic is at the Kiryat Hamlacha compound in south Tel Aviv.
This one also says “Shalom” but it’s in Hebrew, in what is called “print lettering.”
Similar to the lettering style of the Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known by the acronym Rashi, a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud), this piece sends us to ancient Hebrew and leaves us wondering what is in fact Mr. Bombastic’s native language – Hebrew or Arabic? He definitely demonstrates artistic talent and ability in both.
This new piece on our Florentin graffiti tour route, got us reminiscing about ’80s pop culture – The Simpsons, Eurythmics (the white text says “sweet dreams are made of this” in English phonetics but in Hebrew letters). These are themes all of us who grew up in the 1990s are familiar with.
Both artists are relatively new to the street art scene. We first saw Thales‘s work at the Freshness exhibition and immediately clicked with his tower-faced characters.
We were more familiar with The Missk from earlier this year, since her marvelous pieces with fantastic creatures and titles of various pop songs in them, have inhabited the Florentin neighborhood and its surroundings for quite some time now.
Israeli designer Liron Lavi Turkenich created the “Aravrit” font, an experimental writing system presenting a set of hybrid letters merging Hebrew and Arabic. Each letter is composed of Arabic on the upper half and Hebrew on the bottom half.
In Aravrit, one can read any chosen language without ignoring the other one, which is always present. Aravrit was Lavi Turkenich’s graduation project from the prestigious Shenkar college visual communication department back in 2012 and she was even nominated for this year’s Beazley Designs of the year award, alongside two other Israeli designers.
She’s not exactly what we’d call a classic “street artist”, but lucky for everyone, she’s inspired some stencil pieces with Aravrit in various cities across Israel. This specific one was done in downtown Haifa and it says “Thank You” – “Toda” in Hebrew and “Shukran” in Arabic, combined.
Thank you for reading so far. We really hope that we’ve managed to shed some light on Israel’s thriving urban art scene, which keeps us looking up even in the darkest of days. May this year be a year of light, peace and wonderful street art. Happy new year from all of us at Alternative Tel Aviv.