Here’s a snippet of the article, “It’s a chilly Sunday afternoon in early March, the final day of Scope, an annual three-day exhibit. Dozens of gallery representatives from around the world flew to New York for the weekend to showcase their art. Among them was Erez Safar, co-founder of Gallery 38 in Los Angeles.
On the three walls in one of the many open-faced cubicles throughout the pavilion, Safar has installed colorful graffiti-style collage paintings by artist Raheem Saladeen Johnson, known professionally as King Saladeen, originally from West Philadelphia. Saladeen grew up with Badir McCleary, who co-founded Gallery 38 with Safar in a gritty, muraled corner of LA’s West Adams neighborhood.
King Saladeen’s art represents the meaning and feeling of living in the inner city, McCleary says, which is part of why it represents the gallery so well.
“Because we’re part of the community in the inner city, in a developing neighborhood,” he says.
On a boulevard dotted with hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints, auto shops, vintage clothing outlets, and organic cafes, Gallery 38 occupies a neighborhood in flux, one that weaves together various strands of LA’s ethnic life.
Only since Safar and McCleary opened the gallery two years ago did muralists begin decorating the immediate surroundings and other small galleries start popping up, all bringing the neighborhood together around art.
‘Muslims and Jews can work together — this is my brother from another mother’
Amidst the long list of projects Safar has executed that successfully merge business and creativity, bringing seemingly dissonant elements together through art and music has been a consistent theme.
For starters, McCleary says, “the gallery is evidence that Muslims and Jews can work together — this is my brother from another mother.”
Scope wasn’t Safar’s first foray into New York. He lived in Brooklyn until almost five years ago, when he settled down with his wife and children in Pico-Robertson, LA’s well-known “Jewborhood.”
Throughout the aughts, he had made a name for himself in New York’s Jewish music scene, working with artists like Matisyahu, Y-Love, Moshav Band, Pharaoh’s Daughter, Shi 360, Electro Morocco, and others.
“When I moved to New York [after college], I was booking these kinds of interesting, weirdo Jewish events right at the beginning of the Jewish thing being cool,” says Safar.
“When Matisyahu’s band manager called me, all I knew was there was this Hasidic guy who could beatbox. He opened for me DJ-ing cantorial music with drum and bass, and then Matis jumped on with two Chabad guys, one on the hand drum, one on guitar. Everyone who was there was like, ‘what just happened?’”
From there, things began to pick up quickly, he says. Safar began making and DJ-ing his own music — a melange of hip hop, dance, Middle Eastern canon, and klezmer punk — as well as producing music for other artists. In booking shows, releasing music, and promoting, he founded his Shemspeed music label and Bancs Media, a production company and branding agency serving Jewish and non-Jewish artists, alike.
To this day, he continues to make music under various creative identities, including H2The, his latest ’80s-style synth project, and his better known stage name Diwon.