Working class heroes

Through black and white photography and a touch of oil paint, two Israeli artists transform the 'unhopeful' into superheroes.

Working Class Heroes 311 (photo credit:
Working Class Heroes 311
(photo credit:
Everyone has dreams and ambitions. A small child may dream of becoming an elegant prima ballerina, a heroic firefighter or a glamorous movie start. Yet, our imperfect society doesn’t grant opportunity to everyone. For some - the poor, the immigrants, the foreign workers, the single mothers - sacrificing dreams for the sake of economical survival is the unfortunate reality.
Hidden in a small gallery in the heart of Tel Aviv, the magical power of superheroes' comes to the rescue of all those who lost their dreams as a consequence of socio-economical gaps in our society.
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Working Class Heroes is an allegorical exhibition dedicated to the blue-collar workers:  the street cleaners, the construction workers, the dishwashers - the most unappreciated types of work in our society – they are the heroes of this small, but meaningful gallery. Thru photographs and oil paints, two young Israeli artists - Oren Golan and Yonathan Pasternak - join forces to empower these workers, transforming them into modern day Superheroes.
The black and white photographs of the workers on canvas are illuminated by the bright colors of Superheroes costumes that they are wearing. They are granted supernatural abilities which lets them change whatever they want. Suddenly, one can see the most unrecognizable types of work as some magic performance done by a superhero. The “Pop-Art” style of the exhibition does not leave us depressed, but instead with a smile, bringing us closer to these people.
Pasternak's inspiration came from John Lennon’s infamous lyrics of "Working Class Heroes" sung by Marilyn Manson. The song left a different and far more powerful impression on him than Lennon’s version, the artist explains.  The song, with its textured raw voice, was interpreted by him into visuals. An avid comic book fan since he was child, Pasternak believes that “pop-art” or art expressed through familiar cultural symbols makes it accessible to everyone - which is partly the point of the show.
Soon after, Pasternak collaborated with another young artist, Oren Golan. A son of immigrants who moved to Israel after losing all their belongings in Iraq, Golan has firsthand experience of hard blue-collar labor. For him, the Greek myth of Sisyphus is an inspiration for this work. Sisyphus, who was punished by the Gods by endless meaningless and repetitive work, reflects the lack of choices of our exhibition protagonists.
The sad part of realization, while looking at these images, is that today’s hard labor is dead of ideals. If once hard labor was associated with building new societies, states, communities, today most of it is purely individualistic. What has happened to the values of the early pioneers – those who built the country with their bare hands? In today’s Israel hard labor is attributed as unrecognized work which is done by poverty stricken individuals who are unfortunate enough to not find anything better. The opportunities are not equal in our society.
If communist socialists made working class into heroes and models of social leaders, giving them power they were not educated for, these heroes of the 2020 exist as heroes in a completely different space of allegory and fantasy. They are seen as lost elements behind the curtains of society’s comfort. These heroes had given up their dreams, for the sake of pure economical survival.
The 10-day art exhibit ran between December 9th and 20th.