In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how the legacy of this spiritual freedom enables artists to make creative work as part of their practices.
The mandala is an ancient Sanskrit symbol that provides both spiritual guidance and facilitates deep meditation through its creation. While traditional mandalas are made from sand, Israeli artist Rafael Anteby makes them with everything from gold and diamonds to semi-precious stones and other nontraditional materials sourced from the Himalayas. But the artist's practice doesn't stop there. Anteby also creates photographs, watercolors, and sand carvings, as well as bronze sculptures and charcoal powder paintings, in addition to maintaining his celebrity-endorsed jewelry line, Bullets 4 Peace.
Anteby grew up in Israel, where he served in the military and lost his platoon in the war with Lebanon. He found solace in creativity and later joined a Chinese monastery in order to become immersed in Taoism, healing, and meditation. He also trained in martial arts and began teaching it internationally, eventually working in US counter-terrorism training programs.
Anteby, however, suffered another devastating loss when his best friend was fatally shot in South Africa. Inspired to raise awareness about the perils of gun violence, Anteby created Bullets 4 Peace in order to transform the bullet from a symbol of fear into one of love and compassion. He then established the Reloading Life Charity Foundation to further his cause.
After living in monasteries in southeast Asia, Anteby came to Los Angeles to visit family, but eventually decided to stay. "LA provides for an incredible landscape; both economically—with the slew of galleries that have taken root; and inspirationally—with the countless resources available to those who seek them," he tells Creators. "As a major cultural hub for film, music, and fashion, it is only natural that art makes a claim as well. Reception to new artists and practices is open-minded and enthusiastic."
LA's spiritual environment affects Anteby's art on a deeper level as well. "When consciousness is high and people vibrate to strive for more on a spiritual level, you feel comfortable to share your ideas," he says. "In other places, you might not find that spiritual support system available. The fact that there is so much spiritual teaching here allows for my practice to better resonate with people."
Anteby makes art that draws from traditional Tibetan and Buddhist artistic practices, designs, and narratives, as well as his own. "I never have a set trajectory or direction," he says. "I build up my paintings as I go."
The artist describes his creative style as coming from wu wei, which loosely translates to "non-doing," or not doing something consciously in favor of letting the natural course of action take place. So while Anteby's style reads as figurative, it's actually coming from a place of deep meditation and—for lack of a better word—a "void," which is characteristic of wu wei.
"With every piece, I hope to present a sensory experience," he explains. "I want to provide viewers with a full immersion of the senses. I present people, places, and societies in their purest form. My vision is to give the audience insight into these obscure customs and cultures. I have delved deep into these disconnected and desolate tribal cultures and have slowly revealed parts of their mystique through my oeuvre. In drawing attention to these peoples, I hope to be able to preserve their ancient practices."
Meditative Mandalas: An Exhibition Featuring New Works by Rafael (Rafi) Anteby is on view in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 18, 6–10 PM, and Sunday, March 19, 11 AM–8 PM at 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. in Beverly Hills.