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Blast from the past

Israel’s 1990s rock n’ roll scene features in new exhibit

Yermi Kaplan’s guitar, Kobi Oz’s shoes and a Monica Sex original hoodie are displayed at Holon gallery spotlighting local rockers and their imagery from years past

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Curator Avivit Agam Dali and Holon's mayor at the opening of 'Anything for an Impressionistic Photo,' an exhibit about Israeli rock in the 1990s at Holon's Beit Meirov Gallery, through August 2022 (Courtesy Avivit Agam Dali)
Curator Avivit Agam Dali and Holon's mayor at the opening of 'Anything for an Impressionistic Photo,' an exhibit about Israeli rock in the 1990s at Holon's Beit Meirov Gallery, through August 2022 (Courtesy Avivit Agam Dali)

Israelis love their pop music, but they’re rockers, too. It just took Sabras a little longer to tease out their rocker edges, along with the posters, swag and videos that keep fans happy.

Sociologist Dr. Avivit Agam Dali explores the visualization of Israeli rock in an exhibit at Holon’s Beit Meirov Gallery, “Anything for an Impressionistic Photo,” which gets its name from a well-known song by the band Carmela Gross Wagner.

The 1990s, said Agam Dali, were the height of rock music in Israel. There was punk rocker Rami Fortis, musician Berry Sakharov and the band Monica Sex, along with The Gingiot (Red Heads), Dana Berger, Assaf Amdursky, The Witches (HaMachshefot), Nikmat HaTraktor, Yermi Kaplan and The Stella Maris Band and others.

It was just around that time that Israeli rock and alternative bands also began making music videos, about 10 years behind the US, where MTV debuted in August 1981.

Israeli rockers delved into efforts to create their own imagery, and music videos were part of their efforts to promote their music, said Agam Dali.

“They weren’t experimental. These were the real thing.”

 

The exhibit begins from that point in time, with an entrance gallery papered in neon concert posters of different groups created for the exhibit, but evocative of the period, when singers performed at dark, smoky clubs and bars where everyone crowded in to hear their favorites as well as the latest newcomers to the local scene.

“It was the period of print,” said Agam Dali. “You’d collect stickers and posters of your favorite bands and put them up in your room.”

Or locker, if you had one at school.

Agam Dali spent months collecting rock memorabilia from local musicians, seeing what they had to share, which wasn’t much.

“Rock stars are terrible archivists,” she said. “They don’t save anything. I had to run after them to get anything.”

But she did manage to find and collect some goodies.

There’s a hoodie designed by Monica Sex guitarist Peter Roth, who created the band’s logo using inspiration from his favorite NBA basketball team, the Chicago Bulls (he played basketball before picking up the guitar).

There are sketches by members of The Witches, as well as a hand-drawn tapestry hung onstage at their concerts.

Some rockers kept the paper-thin napkins once ubiquitous at local restaurants, on which they would scribble lines of a song or which they would use for autographs. There are letters from fans and concert posters decorated with fan comments, in the era before social media became the central platform for fan clubs and groups.

Tipe-X lead singer Kobi Oz lent his shoes to the exhibit, and Nick Miller of Stella Maris offered some of his concert outfits, made by his father.

There are numerous electric guitars, including one belonging to the Red Heads, another to Nikmat HaTraktor, and one of Yermi Kaplan’s guitars, which was played by his father, Irving Kaplan, before the family moved from the US to Israel.

The second floor of the exhibit includes more video clips and a vivid collection of mostly black-and-white photographs by Dina Kertes, widow of rocker Amir Kertes of the band Ra’ash (Noise), who spent time in clubs with her husband, capturing rockers on stage and during performances, guitars swung high and microphones grasped tightly, giving audiences everything they had.

“Anything for an Impressionistic Photo” is showing at the Beit Meirov Gallery until August 31, 2022, at 31 Hertzfeld, Holon. Check the gallery Facebook page for opening hours.

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