One man's journey to document public art
Photographer Richard Margolis found inspiration in the form of art during his brief stay in Israel.
It started with an obligatory job assignment. His wife was to go on a five-month stint in Israel, so photographer Richard Margolis decided to leave his studio in Rochester, New York, to join her and use the opportunity to find a muse for his art.
After spending much of his time photographing bridges in Rochester (he is seen at the Driving Park Bridge in the image to the right) and then around the world, Margolis arrived in Israel in 2010 with no set plan for his new artistic endeavors.
A walk down the street in Tel Aviv was all it took. Upon strolling around the block from his apartment on the Mediterranean coast, Margolis was immersed in a new and exciting culture.
"In addition to sculptures, there were lots of people in a variety of ethnic attire, runners slipping through the crowds, volleyball games in the sand, theme beaches, fruit stands, exercise stations, parents with strollers ... all existing in an area about 250 feet wide and four miles long between the river and Jaffa," Margolis describes. "There was a lot to photograph."
At first, Margolis couldn't put his camera down. "I photographed it all — people, buildings, sunsets, views, reflections, people eating ice cream, mothers pushing strollers," he says. To him, Israel presented itself as an "exotic location" full of opportunities to branch out.
The most interesting of all the subjects were the sculptures — so Margolis' walks began to have a bit more focus to them, an element of directed exploration. He would start out at his city apartment and walk until he stumbled upon a statue, a mural, or any other work of art out in the open for the public to enjoy. His days ended with hours of uploading and research into each individual piece. Photographs, research and his knowledge of website creation from a previous project documenting art in Rochester combined, and six weeks later, IsraelPublicArt.com came to fruition.
With the help of translators and even a friend who offered to drive him to locations that were farther away, Margolis soon documented not just Tel Aviv installations but intriguing art in Ashdod, Holon, Haifa, Jerusalem, Netanya, Arad and, one of his favorite locations, the artist community of Ein Hod. Four years later, his website is arguably the Internet's largest photo repository of Israeli art installations, with over 300 pieces represented to date.
A sculpture by Saul Salo called "Hilltop Shelter" rests at the edge of a hill overlooking the Ramon Crater. Margolis describes it as "an inspiring arrangement of stones, evidence of intelligence and balance, in a barren landscape." (Photo: Richard Margolis/Israel Public Art)
Everywhere he went, he found more compelling art. "There are wonderful sculptures that celebrate the material, sometimes representational and sometimes abstract, sometimes poetic," he says. "There are huge installations that border on architectural with earthworks and structures and plantings that serve in some cases as courtyards or parks."
Like in the U.S., Israeli art is wide and varied — some art is art for the sake of beauty, some pieces are meant to evoke powerful emotions, and other artists, like Rami Meiri, make it their life's goal to simply make a passerby laugh.
As Margolis continues to pursue his art, now back in New York, he looks back at his time in Israel with a bittersweet sentiment.
"I like feeling as though I have contributed to Israeli culture," he explains. "Discovering public art in Israel was a terrific way for me to explore the country founded just a few years after I was born, where trees I helped plant are growing somewhere."
Margolis says he hopes to return to Israel one day, so he can map out the public art more thoroughly in the northern and southern regions of the country. To have a look for yourself at the treasure trove of art from Israel, head over to IsraelPublicArt.com.
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