Famed Israeli street artist makes first Michigan appearance
British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza grew to fame in the art world for spray painting portraits of contemporary and historical figures on the metal shutters of the Mahane Yehuda Market (“The Shuk”) in Jerusalem. This week, he debuted his first Michigan exhibition, “Solomon Souza: From Israel to Detroit,” at the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield.
The exhibition, running through May 10, will include a new mural painted in the gallery, located inside the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit.
Born in London, Souza’s mother was British-Israeli painter Karen (Keren) Souza-Kohn, one of the three daughters of Goan artist F. N. Souza, and Czech Jewish actress Liselotte de Kristian. Solomon Souza caused a sensation in Israel for the bold murals he painted overnight.
“My mother ingrained in me, from a young age, the desire to create. I owe everything, my life and trajectory, to her,” Souza said. “My grandfather showed me how to be fearless. That there are truly no limits to where you can go and what you can do with your creativity as your fuel.”
Souza’s multicultural background is reflected in the exhibition, which is a joint effort of the JCC, the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA Michigan) and the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit.
Souza will exhibit over 20 new original artworks inspired by family and culture in the show. His colorful mixed media works inspire unity and peace, drawing on his diverse roots and broad worldview.
In the days prior to the exhibit opening on April 16, Souza painted a mural right on site, on panels that fill a full half of the gallery. Once the mural was finished, the public was invited to add to it using provided materials.
“You could say (the mural) is a spontaneous creation,” he said. “I thought of painting the seven days of creation merging into each other along the wall. The public could help me with the last bit. The seventh day, the Sabbath, represents the utopia we should strive towards…everyone can have an opportunity to add their touch to that vision of the future! I try to have faith in the universe and its conductor. Whatever may come will come. I love seeing people’s creativity and I look forward to seeing what unfolds.”
Of the exhibition, Gallery Director Natalie Balazovich said, “One of the most exciting aspects of this exhibition is how cultures are collaborating to make it a reality. We are thrilled to be able to participate with a completely unique effort of the Asian Pacific Islander Community and the Jewish Community working together. And, it all comes out of the nature of the artist himself.”
Souza is renowned for his murals in the Shuk, which he painted in July of 2018. Since then he has painted 250 of the 360 shutters that close up stalls in the market.
“I spent many years living next to the Shuk and the market soon became one of our haunts. Over the years I had painted a number of the shutters but the inspiration to consistently paint hundreds of them, really turning the area into an immersive experience came much later,” he said. “The Shuk project was an effort to bring life to the bustling market even after it closed at night and especially over the weekend sabbath. The layout of the market is a natural gallery space with walkways and walls and it was just asking to be painted!”
Each painting takes about two to four hours to complete and Souza usually completes three murals per night. Subjects include everyone from Golda Meir to Steven Spielberg. He also paints Arab personalities like Si Ali Sakkat and Indian personalities like Mahatma Gandhi.
In a statement, Souza said his “biblical collection is a creative expression of the dramatic events portrayed in the Tanach.”
Using an array of mediums including oil and spray paint, Souza has produced a series of powerful, visually striking works that capture the emotional and spiritual lessons that unfold in the Torah and later writings. The Biblical narratives are not just the perfect artistic subjects, but contain profound historical and cultural significance.
“By engaging with these stories and reflecting on their meaning and relevance, we gain valuable insights into human nature, history, and our place in the world,” he said.
In this sense, Souza’s collection is not just an artistic endeavor, but also a reminder of the power of storytelling, reflection and introspection. “We are encouraged to explore the complexities of the human experience, to learn, grow and strive towards a brighter future.”
During the Souza exhibit, the second floor of the gallery also will be filled with 20 works by women artists currently living in the Jezreel Valley of Israel entitled “Women Creating Reality: Jezreel Valley Pioneers.” Each artist shares experiences of life in the Valley, also known as the “Valley of Megiddo,” a historically rich and fertile land, steeped in culture. The Jezreel Valley is in a cultural partnership with the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit. Along with each artwork is a story, in writing, sharing the experiences behind the images.
Participating artists include Liora Kuris, Leah Bar Sela, Tamar Hadad, Ellie Shamir, Ruth Schatzman, Hedva Mahler, Rachel Nemesh, Sara Avnin Ganishar, Sima Levin, Nurit Gur Lavie, Isit Levavi Gabbay, Michal Vitalis and Ariella Goldman.
“Solomon Souza: From Israel to Detroit” will be on view through May 10 at the Janice Charach Gallery, 6600 W. Maple in West Bloomfield, inside the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit. Gallery hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, or by appointment a week in advance. For more information, visit charachgallery.org or call 248-432-5579.