Writings

Laura Kruger at the Hebrew Union College Museum

Written on July 14, 2014

Laura Kruger
Laura Kruger has done an extraordinary job for the Jewish people.  Through vision, determination and discrimination she has in the past 24 years carefully nurtured the struggling prospect of contemporary Jewish Art.  For most of that time she has stood alone among curators and Jewish museums, providing an often singular forum for emerging contemporary Jewish visual culture.  While the battle is far from over, she has established a veritable beachhead of exhibitions that, taken together, make it impossible for any rational person to question the vitality of Jewish visual creativity today.
 

Tosafot at Ein Harod

Written on January 24, 2014

Nicholls - Brochot 13
“Tosafot: Women Drawing the Talmud” at the Mishkan Le’Omanut in Ein Harod, Israel showcases the cutting edge work of two women artists significantly contributing to the lively and disparate Jewish cultural scene we are fortunate to inhabit.

Sanctuary: Mark Podwal Terezin Suite

Written on June 18, 2014

Mark Podwal: Blood Libel
“Sanctuary, sanctuary sanctuary…” proclaims Quasimodo as he rescues Esmeralda, the gypsy girl unjustly accused of murder, and whisks her into the protection of the looming Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  The 1939 film, Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, is surprisingly shot through with veiled references to the plight of the Jews in Europe.   The notion of the church as a place of refuge is a major theme, regardless of the historical irony. Sanctuary is simultaneously a place of holiness in which it is forbidden to enter; and a place of protection for all.  Needless to say, sanctuary reverberates throughout the ages in our synagogues and communal history.   The current exhibition of Mark Podwal’s artwork at the Terezin Ghetto Museum in the Czech Republic reflects an engagement of the Sanctuary motif.
 

Sanctuary: Lincoln Square Synagogue

Written on June 18, 2014

Lincoln Square Synagogue
“Sanctuary, sanctuary sanctuary…” proclaims Quasimodo as he rescues Esmeralda, the gypsy girl unjustly accused of murder, and whisks her into the protection of the looming Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  The 1939 film, Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara, is surprisingly shot through with veiled references to the plight of the Jews in Europe.   The notion of the church as a place of refuge is a major theme, regardless of the historical irony. Sanctuary is simultaneously a place of holiness in which it is forbidden to enter; and a place of protection for all.  The groundbreaking design of the new Lincoln Square Synagogue reflects an engagement of the Sanctuary motif.
 

Off Label: Dov Abramson & Ken Goldman

Written on May 12, 2014

Kaddish Zuger - Goldman
After the shock of recognition that the artists are speaking our language, but with a slightly different accent, the well-informed observant audience will recognize that a serious thought-provoking Jewish art can easily also put a smile on your face.  This is what is now being offered at the JCC in Manhattan with “Off Label: Dov Abramson & Ken Goldman” until July 30, 2014.
 

Medieval Echoes

Written on April 18, 2014

Miriam Sings - Golden Haggadah
Rushing in from the Boston airport on a bright Sunday morning, I breathlessly rolled into Boston College’s Gasson Hall, surprised by the sumptuous kosher lunch set out, and settled into the first of a series of PowerPoint Presentations delivered about illuminated medieval Jewish manuscripts.  Within the blink of an eye, I was in heaven.  This was the beginning of a two day presentation of 8 serious scholarly papers; explorations into the complexities of the medieval Hebrew manuscript. Where else but in a Jesuit college?
 

Faces: Indian Jewish Narratives of Siona Benjamin

Written on March 21, 2014

Benjamin - Esther Sukkur
Siona Benjamin has mounted a remarkable exploration into the complex and multilayered identity of Indian Jews, simultaneously tracking the personal, communal and artistic strands that constitute the very fabric of her life.  This ambitious show of over 30 large works, created within the last 2 years, was inspired by work she did on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2011 that allowed her to reconnect and explore the Bene Israel community of Indian Jews of her native Mumbai.  The results confront issues of assimilation, Diaspora, piety and communal preservation that affect us all.  
 

Silverstein’s Heroes

Written on March 21, 2014

Silverstein - Jo-El/Jore-El
Exactly how is an aspect of Jewish identity expressed in the mid-20th century phenomena of comic book Superheros?  Aside from the ethnic background of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, Depression era Jews, and the fact that his Kryptonian name, Kal-El, becomes the Hebrew “voice of God,” what else is there?  Many have seen multiple Jewish echoes, not the least of which may be his quasi-messianic role in upholding Truth, Justice and the American Way.  Joel Silverstein dares to explore the social and personal ramifications of Superman in his current exhibition, “Jo-El / Jore-El: Superheroes, Autobiography and Religion” currently at the Hadas Gallery.
 

Biblical Space: Recent Works by John Bradford

Written on February 10, 2014

Bradford - Finding Moses
John Bradford is back with a dozen masterful paintings that deliver a powerful reassessment of Biblical narratives, served up in a revolutionary new painterly format.   Last seen in these pages in November 2010, Bradford’s new work, “Biblical Space” at the Bowery Gallery until February 22, is a transformation of how he treats the surface of the painting, a game-changing reassessment he has been working towards most of his long artistic career.
 

The Last of the Unjust; a film by Claude Lanzmann (2013)

Written on February 10, 2014

Lanzman - The Last of the Unjust
The horror…the horror does not dissipate even after 69 years.  Benjamin Murmelstein was the last “Elder of the Jews” of Theresienstadt and in many hours of revealing interviews his story unfolds under the watchful eye of master documentary filmmaker Claude Lanzmann in “The Last of the Unjust.”   The movie confronts the terrible compromised reality of Jewish leaders under Nazi rule.  

Bonhams & Sotheby's Judaica 2013

Written on December 20, 2013

Hagar - Abel Pann
It is a rare season indeed when two major auction houses are showing not only resplendent offerings of Judaica, but also multiple examples of highly unusual and rare Jewish themed fine art.  That is indeed the case right now both at Sotheby’s December 19th auction and the Bonhams recent December 10th auction.

Simon Gaon’s Jewish Paintings

Written on December 06, 2013

Gaon - Hasid
Bagel Take Out, a rather large (54” X 50”), oil painting by Simon Gaon, confronts the viewer with a typically challenging New York sidewalk vista.  As is usual in our tumultuous city, people, food and signage are constantly being thrust into our field of vision, loudly completing for attention and patronage.  It is exactly this breathless experience that Simon Gaon thrives on and has effortlessly captured in literally hundreds of paintings over his 50 year artistic career, spent mostly in our fair town.  A recent late afternoon visit to his Upper West Side apartment/studio revealed not only the vast scope of this master Expressionist painter, but also a small cache of his overtly Jewish-themed works.

In Search of Ancestors, Sculpture by Simon Gaon
What's In a Name?

Written on June 29, 2001

Gaon - Bar Kochba
The name Simon Gaon I remember well.  As a passionate painter and founding member of the rough and tumble “Street Painters” I knew him from many, many years ago when I was a participant and occasional program director of the Alliance of Figurative Artists.  These meetings at the Educational Alliance, held from the early 1970’s through the 1980’s, presented a raucous forum for artists to battle beliefs and occasionally exchange ideas about Art and the turbulent art world of New York.  As part of the ‘Alliance’, the Street Painters was a group dedicated to the primacy of the immediate visual experience of the streets of New York.  They would paint their big expressionistic canvases standing on the sidewalks and streets, frequently in the midst of the crowds, to capture the vibrant life of the city’s streets; day or night, weather fair or foul. To them art was as much about personal encounters and experience as it was about aesthetics and ideas.  

Unconditional Love: Cairo Ark Door and Falk's Paintings

Written on November 22, 2013

Falk - The Dybbuk
Unconditional love is a concept that sets the bar of human conduct and forgiveness at a dizzying height, challenging the very fabric of human credulity.  The same stress exists when applied in a religious context, fueling extreme expectations of the Divine/Human relationship.  In a rather curious and unexpected parallelism two current exhibitions express and explore aspects of unconditional love, each with surprising results.  While Yeshiva University Museum’s exhibition of the Ark Door from the Ben Ezra Synagogue reflects that community’s steadfast loyalty to living in the ‘forbidden’ country of Egypt, so too does Alan Falk’s pictorial exploration of the Song of Songs and the Dybbuk proclaim their respective unconditional and undying love.