On Sunday, March 10th, we went to the Maltz Museum to attend a program titled “Tel Aviv’s Graffiti Art Movement,” which featured a lecture by Ms. Elinoy Kisslove, a very talented and renowned Israeli Graffiti artist. Ms. Kisslove spoke about how she was inspired to do her first graffiti in 2011 by the poor treatment that a woman received for dressing in what some believed to be an inappropriate fashion. At that time, she was apprehended by the police and punished, but remained unshaken in her viewpoint that “expressing an anonymous opinion on the street is the best way to spread a strong message. It keeps the focus on the message and not on the person behind it.”
What we liked about Ms. Kisslove was that she was willing to address all sides of the graffiti controversy which she, herself, readily admitted was quite complicated. For instance, 98% of the graffiti done in Tel Aviv is illegal but the local government also conducts graffiti tours and thus takes full advantage of its value as a tourist attraction.
Ms. Kisslove shared slides of some beautiful pieces that had significant social relevance and we can see why it has, in fact, been documented that aging structures have sometimes had their market value boosted, not lowered, by colorful renderings.
From what Ms. Kisslove said and from our own research, we learned that in 2012 she and her brother, Jonatan Kis-lev also a talented graffiti artist, formed their own organization named “Gratitiyul” which offers guided graffiti tours, workshops and professional course as well as being involved in educational projects that above all encourage young people to find and express their voice perhaps by both conventional and unconventional methods.
Currently “Gratitiyul” supports 12 young artists and we read on its website that “our vision is to become familiar with the sources of Graffiti and Street Art, how it grew and developed over the years and more important, what makes it pure art and not vandalism. We have persistent desire to discover the most inquisitive pieces of work, made by the most talented leading street artists, and to present their work and motivation for making. We wish to discuss the personal statements and meaningful messages that stands behind their art and share personal stories”
Ms. Kisslove acknowledged that she, herself, has not conducted tours for a while, and at this time her passions are her art and traveling. Accordingly, she was in Cleveland this week to give a series of presentations and we understand that after she left the Maltz Museum she addressed a group gathered at Studios at 78th Street, LLC.
Even though graffiti was Ms. Kisslove’s vocation, she displayed maturity and grace as members of the audience at the Maltz questioned the legitimacy of graffiti. She said that, above all, she wanted us to be open to seeing graffiti from all perspectives and so granted, we certainly acknowledge that our time with her was very thought-provoking.