Optical Obstruction

An encounter with black and white suggests what is meant to be seen is sans color.

Whether you are walking in the streets of Tel Aviv or Los Angeles, you’ll spot Nir Peled’s bold black-and-white murals on the walls of the city. The Herzliya based artist, known as Pilpeled, started his decorated career over a decade ago.  The autodidact entered the art world through graphic design. In 2005, before the presence of social media, posters were the face of Tel Aviv nightlife. Advertisements of image and text were plastered all over the streets, promoting events in the happening music scene. Peled began designing posters for his friend’s bands and was quickly asked to make flyers for the city’s most exclusive nightclubs. Working in a fast-paced environment where he had to produce three new posters a week was challenging. However, it  created a strong foundation for his artistic practice. Without formal education, Peled calls this instructional period, his “schooling.”  Pilpeled began to take his drawings off posters and plaster them across walls of Tel Aviv. His hand-painted murals feature distinct portraits of figures either covering their faces or wearing masks. The black and white nature of his work, is just that, black and white. But, only in the literal sense. His thoughtful works, though they suggest unadulterated meaning, engage with a cerebrality of what it means to conceal and reveal. Is casting oneself in hues of only black and white an attempt to blend in or scream individuality?  The strokes in Pilpeled’s are textured, as if carved from linoleum. Peled’s recurring figures are of the third eye and a dog named, Comet. Surrounding his characters, he adds tribal elements, vases that look ancient, or bodies that are dancing, meditating, or holding hands. Since his early days drawing up until today, Peled’s inspiration stems from following other artists, comics, and graffiti. He is also greatly affected by architecture, photography, and music.

People started to recognize his name as he established a unique language and style. In 2008, Peled decided to open a brand selling merchandise such as shirts, shoes, hats, and socks. The online shop was accessible internationally while it boomed with popularity in Israel. The label hosted pop-up shops multiple times per year combining art, music, and fashion. Peled didn’t initially plan to stick to his iconic black-and-white technique. The process was a natural one, originally intended to produce silkscreen products in one color, which complement his vector-like drawings. 

With the global rise of his brand, Pilpeled was invited to exhibit and create works internationally. His first exhibition outside of Israel was in Poland. Following this, he began collaborating with large companies such as Absolut Vodka to design a vodka bottle, Coca-Cola for a campaign, and Puma. In 2018, Pilpeled wanted to focus on the art itself and he closed his brand. 

Today, the artist focuses on his studio practice, wall murals, and a bevy of collaborations. He also works on partnership projects with high tech offices and restaurants around the world. People are interested in having his work in lobbies and bars, WeWork in Tel Aviv, for example. His center of interest is his studio work. The artist has returned to painting large canvases. In 2018, he was invited to paint a mural at the Israel Museum in the exhibition “I to Eye Passing Encounters.” This was a breakthrough, bringing art from the streets to one of the world’s largest encyclopedic museums. Pilpeled recently exhibited in the Urban Nation Street Art Museum in Berlin in 2018. To be acknowledged by the prestigious museum and show work alongside artists he has admired for years, was an immense honor for Pilpeled. 

Now that Pilpeled is focusing on his studio practice, he is venturing into new mediums. Continuing with his theme of concealed eyes, most recently, the artist has made wood carvings of masks. This change marks a new and curious chapter in his career.  

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