Like many other elements of our local popular culture, Israel’s underground comics scene got started about a decade after “comix” had made waves in the US and Europe. Given our national tendency towards neurosis, depression and general self-loathing, however, alternative cartoons quickly found an willing audience for content that was critical of society, government, bureaucracy and the old-fashioned cartoons that celebrated good boys and girls.
An exhibition at the Israeli Cartoon Musuem, entitled Pitz’ei Bagrut — best translated as “zits”, “acne” or “growing pains” — illustrates the transition that took place over three decades of political, social and economic change between 1975 to 1995.
The changes in society were reflected in comics, which become a popular tool for expression in the daily press, local newspapers, youth magazines and — as the underground style went more mainstream — even advertisements.
According to exhibition curator Maya Dvash, “Comics relate to time and place that authentically reflects local life. Like all forms of artistic expression, they are so influenced by the changes in Israel society in recent decades.”
Dvash states that the exhibition focuses on two cartoonists whose work most clearly represent the different aspects of this change: Uri Fink — creator of SabraMan, the first Israeli superhero, and of Zbeng!, a long-running series about teenagers in high school in an nihilistic reality of classrooms, gossip, sex, food and a general lack of values.
The other artist spotlighted is the late Dudu Geva — whose alter-ego, Water Department clerk Yosef championed the Everyman while his super-ego, the Duck, has become the unofficial mascot of Tel Aviv.
Other cartoonists featured in the exhibition whose work reflects the spirit of the times are Michel Kichka, Edo Amin, Zeev Engelmayer, Tsahi Farber, Noam Nadav, Shay Charka, Amos Ellenbogen, Tamir Shefer, Itzik Rennert, Michael Netzer, Moshe Gilula and brothers Tomer and Asaf Hanuka. An online selection of their featured works is available here.
The exhibition presents their sketches and published works as well as presenting the production processes that have also changed over the past 30 years, from color separations on plates to computer graphics and digital printing.
On December 23, the Museum will hold a symposium about the Zits exhibition moderated by curator Dvash, academic advisor Dr. Baruch Blich and the artists. The discussion will be accompanied by the screening of short films from the period.
The symposium will be held at the Holon Institute of Technology, Faculty of Design, Building 6, 32 Golomb St., Holon. Attendees will also be granted free entry to the exhibition. For more information visit the Israeli Cartoon Musuem website.