AVNER SHER: EMBRACING VANDALISM
Art Market|Issue #53 November 2020
Avner Sher (born 1951, Israel), one of Israel's most successful commercial architects, has earned his B. Arch, Architecture and Town Planning from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology and graduated his Art studies at Haifa University.
Mark Westall
During the early years of his career, sher's style was mainly inspired by an urban and architectural aesthetic. An encounter with graffiti and vandalism on a public restroom wall sparked the birth of a new artistic form of creation.

Sher embraced the vandalistic act's raw and violent nature and utilized it to create a new style. His work results from a very physically demanding process of injuring, scratching, etching, engraving, and scorching large cork and wood panels.

In 1999, Sher moved to Tel Aviv and had an experience that changed his life: He stopped at a gas station near Beit Yanai and saw that the restroom walls were covered with graffiti. Captivated by the wildness and artistic freedom they conveyed, he felt the urge to tear down barriers in his own work.

He began to paint and draw on cork panels mounted on wood, lacerating the surface with knives, screwdrivers, and electric saws, burning it with a wood-burning etching pencil and splattering it with substances like coffee, mud, ketchup, and red wine. His work is also rooted in the iconography of the Levant.

He references ancient visual languages and hieroglyphics while maintaining a universal theme combining prehistoric elements and childlike symbolism. Common motifs in his work are fish, faces, spirals, and images of flora and fauna. Sometimes he incorporates Biblical verses, especially from the Book of Genesis and Psalms.

As the son of parents who survived Dachau, Sher grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust and the numbers tattooed on their arms. The tattoo thus became a visual code in his work.

His first important show was in 2002 at Mabat Gallery in Tel Aviv 2002. Since then, he has had over 20 solo exhibits and has taken part in over 30 group exhibits in Israel and worldwide.

At the Jerusalem Biennale in 2017, Sher presented his installation 950m2 – Alternative Topographies, which was displayed at the Tower of David Museum overlooking Jerusalem's Old City walls. Composed of two series, Maps of Jerusalem and Spoila, the installation explores the idea of perpetually devolving city space.

At the pan-European art biennale, Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Italy, Sher's installation addresses the issue of migration and refugees, making bold, sometimes ironic use of symbols.

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