King of the ‘Bubblegumjungle’

Artist Alef spreads environmental awareness

‘Bubblegumjungle’ imparts artist Alef’s realization that ‘if we continue with our excessive consumption-based lifestyles, we are bound to end up fossilized in plastic.’ (photo credit: LAURA ROBLEÑO MORENO)
‘Bubblegumjungle’ imparts artist Alef’s realization that ‘if we continue with our excessive consumption-based lifestyles, we are bound to end up fossilized in plastic.’
(photo credit: LAURA ROBLEÑO MORENO)
Imagine a dystopian world that no longer breathes – where everything is fossilized in plastic, ironically due to our failure to recycle that plastic when given the chance. This synthetic demise haunts us as we gradually face extinction. “Everything has an expiration date,” is the message behind Florentin (Tel Aviv) artist Alef’s latest exhibition, “Bubblegumjungle.”
At the center of Alef’s vibrant exhibition, which found its new home in Jerusalem’s Khan Theater on Monday, are plastic knickknacks that he gathered around his neighborhood. Each miniature dinosaur, sea creature, ostrich and tiger has its own unique shape and (spray-painted) color. Together, they represent the different “shapes and colors” that walk the Earth today.
Alef coined the term “Bubblegumjungle” to reflect his realization that “if we continue with our excessive consumption- based lifestyles, we are bound to end up fossilized in plastic.” Not only does the compound word indicate this imprisonment, but its long-winded nature also amplifies it, leaving no space to breathe between words.
Rather than blending together like the exhibition’s title, the nine individual works that make up “Bubblegumjungle” complement one another, as they demonstrate that despite underlying distinctions, ultimately everyone is trapped in the same unruly jungle.
The inspiration for the colorful exhibition sprang from a plastic toy elephant that Alef’s girlfriend bought him at a shop in Florentin. The found object called to him, leading to the creation of his first fixture: a Pink Elephant artwork, which serves as a “call to action for its viewers to address the ‘pink elephant’ in their lives and not let things be unsaid.”
He forces his audience to take off their rose-colored glasses – even if only for a second – and confront their environmental responsibilities.
Attached to his original artworks, including three never-before-seen additions, are captions with each animal’s name and extinction date within the next 1,000 years. “Bubblegumjungle” calls “for everyone to wake up and realize the irreversible damage we are doing by polluting the Earth.”
In using simple and inexpensive materials found and purchased in his neighborhood, such as plastic toys, silicone and spray paint, Alef creates a dialogue with Yair Garbuz and other “Want of Matter” local artists, as well as infamous street artist Banksy, whose recent exhibition in Herzliya created the original platform for Alef’s socially charged exhibition.
However, Alef sets himself apart from these street artists by incorporating more polished qualities into his works such as glossy finishes. The result: a tasteful combination of street art and fine art.
The artist explains, “I have chosen to take these materials and transform them into fine art because I think that once they are transformed, they are beautiful, and although synthetic, they represent the same beauty that ‘Bubblegumjungle’ is calling to protect.
After all, Alef’s primary goal is to spread the beauty and joy and bring “color and happiness to his viewers.” (In his spare time, he doodles little smileys, hearts and unicorns around Florentin in the hopes that they will lift people’s spirits). Only once that is accomplished does the artist hope to provoke some serious questions as to the future of the world and how each of us must take an active part in contributing to the sustainability of our planet.
Compared to other countries, Alef feels that Israel is too lax when it comes to recycling and reducing pollution. He feels that “If there was a proper recycling practice policy like there is in Europe, we would be able to start to make a difference.
So far, all I see is that plastic bottles are recycled, but what about all the rest? Also, Israelis are unfortunately extremely accustomed to using disposable utensils, plates and tablecloths almost all the time. That would be a great place to start cutting back on waste.”
Exposure is key. On top of his public exposure as a street artist, curator Ari Marrache (Alef’s alter ego) has formed a strong relationship with Under A Thousand Gallery, where his works are currently on display. The gallery brings affordable art to the public as a means of strengthening local artists and cultural consumption in Israel. Hanging the mixed-media canvases on the walls of the Khan Theater’s café will serve to increase his exposure and audience demographic.
“I want my art to be seen by everyone,” Alef states. “Not just people who are interested in art, but even those who are not.”
Alef says, “If you believe that you can destroy, believe that you can rebuild.
That is something I believe to be true for everyone in everything in life. And the key to it is believing – in oneself, in God, in whatever. Just believe!” “Bubblegumjungle” runs until the end of August at the Khan Theater.