Getting under the covers

Former Hed Arzi album designers Rafi Dayagi and Oded Klein exhibit their stunning work in Holon.

Man and woman in car (photo credit: ODED KLEIN)
Man and woman in car
(photo credit: ODED KLEIN)
There are music fans of a certain vintage – especially those less enamored with the wonders of advanced technology – who still mourn the introduction of the CD to the market, which largely pushed the LP to the back shelf of consumer interest. You could probably include Rafi Dayagi and Oded Klein in that category.
(For anyone who may not know, LP stands for long-playing record, with the large ones played at 33 revolutions per minute; as opposed to a “single” with one song on each side, played at 45 rpm.) Until 20 or so years ago, Dayagi and Klein made much of their bread from producing eye-catching covers for albums, both of the vinyl long-playing variety, and of the more compact digital ilk. Dayagi created the works of art, and Klein photographed them. Twenty-two fruits of their joint labor-of-love can be viewed at the “Our Record” exhibition, which will run at Beit Meirov Arts Center in Holon until March 8.
The album covers include artwork produced for CDs and LPs, and visitors to the show are provided with a fascinating juxtaposing of outsized enlargements alongside the original, much smaller, creation. The inclusion of the source material in Our Record is of prime importance to the whole exercise and, as Dayagi explains, was the catalyst for the exhibition.
“The covers in the show date from 1982 to 1992,” he says, “but it is not so much that particular decade that is the crux of the whole thing. We found the original negatives of the artwork and we decided we would put on an exhibition, to go with the negatives, but that the negatives would be the starting point and basis for the project, rather than the actual album covers.”
Even so, the public does not get a glimpse of the negatives. It is, says Dayagi, all a matter of scale, and what the human eye can comfortably take in.
“The enlargements are really big – the biggest are 1.40 meters by 2.80, that is really big – and the original album covers are right next to them.
But it would be taking things too far to have the tiny negatives on display, too.”
So the source material was found and lovingly processed, and the project was duly set in motion. But it is one thing to have a cool idea, about taking something produced two or three decades ago, which used technology now considered pretty primitive, and an entirely different thing to actually put the notion into tangible form in a day and age when the concomitant apparatus has largely been well and truly put to bed.
“We had to find companies that still used scanners of the right size,” continues Dayagi. “Back then, every newspaper had the kind of scanners we needed. But we managed to solve that problem, too.”
Our Record features Dayagi-Klein creations for crooners Boaz Sharabi, Shimi Tavori and Alon Olearchik, pop band Gazoz, pioneer cultural crossover act Shlomo Bar and Habreira Hativeet, and 80s heartthrob Adam.
The creative twosome also worked closely with leading record label Hed Arzi on a compilation series called Maximum, which started out in 1981 and ran to 13 issues. And it was not all about making a fast buck.
“Bank Hapoalim brought out the first one. They were recent hits from abroad. We didn’t make much money out of that project,” says Klein. “It was basically for the fun of it. Sometimes our outgoings far exceeded the fee we got for our work.”
“We wanted to do something nice, something different,” adds Dayagi.
“We got a lot of satisfaction from the series.”
Naturally, all the covers the two produced fed off a thematic core, and they ran into a zoological conundrum in the middle of the Maximum series.
“We got to the eighth CD in the series, and we wondered what we could do that would symbolize that number,” Dayagi recalls. “Then we hit on the idea of a spider, an eightlegged spider.”
That proved to be easier said than done.
“I called Oded and told him we were going for a spider photograph for the cover of the compilation, and we started thinking about how to go about it. Oded, to me, is one of the best photographers in the world, and I knew he’d find a solution for the technical side of the work.”
But, of course, Dayagi and Klein had to run the idea by the people who paid the bills.
“We were fortunate, back then, that the people who ran Hed Arzi were a bunch of crazy funny guys – people like Yair Nitzani, Haim Shemesh, Avi Brand. They were all funny people who wanted to work and believed in going for special things. We were lucky to have them to work with.”
As broadminded and fun-oriented as they may have been, Nitzani et al were still taken aback by the arachnidan concept.
“I explained to them that most of the people who bought the Maximum compilations were, in fact, kids and that kids like to collect spiders. I told them that the album cover would really boost sales. It wasn’t easy, but we eventually managed to convince the Hed Arzi bosses.”
Dayagi and Klein’s next step in the arduous odyssey to Maximum 8 creative excellence was to get their hands – literally – on a real-life spider. This was long before artists had access to multitudes of online images. The real thing had to be tracked down and safely brought to the studio for Klein to do his thing. Eventually, a tarantula with the requisite number of hairy extensions was found up north.
“We went to the Zoological Museum in Haifa and brought it to the studio in an old Nescafé tin, with holes in the lid so the spider wouldn’t suffocate,” Dayagi explains.
Klein duly took the shot, and he and Dayagi anxiously waited for the print to be developed the following day, to see if the picture fit the Maximum 8 bill.
“There was no instant digital photography back then,” recalls Dayagi, adding that there were also financial considerations. “If the photograph did not come out well, we had a problem.
The whole photographic process was expensive and we didn’t generally have the budget, or time, to do another photo shoot.”
When the photograph was eventually delivered, Dayagi and Klein had a shock in store for them. “The spider only had seven legs,” says Dayagi. “One of the legs must have fallen off, and we didn’t notice it at the time.”
Back then, there were no computerized touching-up means available – what you shot was what you had.
But Dayagi found a creative solution to the numerical problem. “The whole point of the exercise was to have an eight-legged spider for the eighth issue of the Maximum series, so I placed the Maximum logo over the place where the missing leg would have been.”
Even after the aesthetic problem had been fixed, Dayagi and Klein were still faced with informing the museum authorities that one of their prize creatures was no longer complete.
“They laughed when I told them,” recalls Dayagi.
“They said the leg would grow back.”
The whole logistical process of getting Dayagi and Klein’s work out there is probably a little difficult for anyone under the age of 40 to appreciate, but the proof of the creative pudding is there for all to see and appreciate in Holon. Our Record is a delightful blast from the past.
Admission to the Beit Meirov Arts Center is free. For more information: (03) 651-6851.