Yehuda Porbuchrai’s solo exhibition focuses on a number of series that he created between the mid-1980s and today. It reflects key recurring themes in his works, as well as the unique language that he has developed over the years.
Born in Persia, Porbuchrai grew up from infancy in the Israeli town of Ness Ziona, then moved to south Tel Aviv to study art. He began his art studies at the Avni Institute (1973–1977), and in the early 1980s moved to live in New York. Since his return to Israel in 1986, he has exhibited in dozens of exhibitions in museums and galleries, both in Israel and abroad. His paintings comprise a wide range of intertwining themes, colors and forms, such as folk art; images from European and American art history; designs and images from magazines and film posters; ornamental features typical of illustrations in Persian manuscripts; and the abstract patterns of Persian textiles.
For Porbuchrai, the Central Bus Station reveals the face of the true Israel, and offers a glimpse into its subconscious and the Israeli Other. It is an unflinching gaze at the oppressed margins; at wretchedness and grace; at the common, warm and familiar, but also at the exotic and alien. A large series of paintings created by Porbuchrai in 1983 was inspired by the film billboards of the sort plastered on the walls of the Hamercaz Cinema at the old Central Bus Station, or by advertisements in pornographic magazines. In this series of paintings, women are presented in stereotypically seductive fashion that aims to titillate the viewer. Another series of paintings from 1983, on view in the current exhibition, features a mysterious demon. It is an androgynous figure, a compassionate angel in one instance and an evil seductress in another. Its presence offers a punk-like, subversive urban alternative to the familiar representations of macho Sabra.
In the Hava Nagila series of works on paper (2005), which Porbuchrai presented in an exhibition at the Julie M. Gallery, Tel Aviv in 2005 and published as an artist’s book that year, he used only black. The layout of the pages on the wall of the exhibition space – replicating their presentation at the 2005 exhibition – suggests a kind of personal index of images: a flower, a bird, a tree, a snake, an open mouth. It depicts very loud, awkward yet deliberate singing that gives a voice to the muzzled immigrant as he tries to connect with the established Israeli narrative and ethos. The words of the Zionist song Hava Nagila appear in English transcription next to the musical notation of the melody; in marked contrast, the intimate love words in Persian – Azizam (my dear), Joonam (my life) – taken from a lullaby that Porbuchrai’s mother used to sing to him as a child, are inscribed in Hebrew characters.
In recent years, Porbuchrai has gone back to using color, in nature and still-life paintings based on postcards and cheap objects of the sort sold at the Central Bus Station, which also include elements from the artist’s personal imagery index. These paintings, which use such kitschy references as a counter to mainstream Israeli painting, render the clichéd phoniness into mental landscapes of beauty and darkness.