Writings

Ethics of the Omer
The Abstract Omer paintings of Yitzhok Moully www.moullyart.com

Written on May 24, 2013

Moully Abstract Omer
I have always had a problem with the Omer.  Doing the mitzvah of counting the omer was of course pretty easy.  Remembering to start the second evening of Passover and remembering to stop the day before Shavous took a little concentration but somehow I always managed. No, for me the nagging problem was always why was I doing this in the first place, other than the fact it was a biblical (according to the Rambam) commandment.  

Megillas Ruth in Jewish Art
Arthur Szyk (1947) Jacob Steinhardt (1957) David Wander (2011)

Written on May 10, 2013

Wander Megillah Ruth
Arthur Szyk (1947)  Jacob Steinhardt (1957)  David Wander (2011)
The megillahs beg to be illustrated.  Each is associated with a notable holiday and each presents an idiosyncratic view of Jewish history and experience.  Those that are not overtly narrative cry out to be narrated while the others present the most compelling stories imaginable. 

Steinhardt's Legacy

Written on April 26, 2013

Judges - Frankfort Mishneh Torah
Michael and Judy Steinhardt are putting up their magnificent Judaica collection for sale at Sotheby’s in New York on April 29th.    The results of 44 years of diverse collecting will be on view from Wednesday April 24 and simply must be seen by anyone interested in Jewish visual and material culture.  

Two Jewish Views of Photography: Chim at International Center of Photography

Written on April 12, 2013

Tereska (1948) photograph by David Seymour © Chim (David Seymour)/ Magnum Photos
Two masters of modern photography are on view at the International Center of Photography; Chim (Szymin); aka David Seymour and Roman Vishniac.  They are both Jewish and just happen to bring astute but radically different visions to Jewish photographic subjects. These brilliant, exhaustive exhibitions help us examine the fundamentals of what it means to create a Jewish Art in photography.

Two Jewish Views of Photography: Vishniac at International Center of Photography

Written on April 12, 2013

Nettie Stub (1938) photograph by Roman Vishniac © Mara Vishniac Kohn. Courtesy International Center of Photography
Two masters of modern photography are on view at the International Center of Photography; Chim (Szymin); aka David Seymour and Roman Vishniac.  They are both Jewish and just happen to bring astute but radically different visions to Jewish photographic subjects. These brilliant, exhaustive exhibitions help us examine the fundamentals of what it means to create a Jewish Art in photography.

Weisberg’s Visions
Ruth Weisberg Unfurled (2007 catalogue of exhibition at Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA)

Written on March 29, 2013

The Story of Ruth and Naomi (1988) Oil on canvas by Ruth Weisberg  Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, L.A.
There is a special class of Jewish artists who toil in the rich fields of Tanach and Jewish practice for years and years, quietly establishing a foundation of visual and intellectual markers for generation of artists to come.  Ruth Weisberg is clearly one of these founders.  Her seminal work articulates an approach to the Jewish narrative deeply informed by a Jewish feminism.

Here I Learned Love

Written on March 15, 2013

Itzik Weinberg - Here I Learned to Love
What is your earliest memory? Itzik Weinberg’s earliest memory may be of him and his younger brother, Avner, fleeing the invading Germans in Cracow, Poland.   At the same time their parents and grandparents were deported to the Belzetz death camp. 

Bezalel’s Legacy: Commentary on Jewish Craft and Art

Written on March 01, 2013

God Passes By (2006) by Richard McBee  Courtesy Private Collection
Bezalel, oh Bezalel, what company you keep!  Your parsha, Ki Sisa, takes us from humble devotion to God’s commandments to the utter collapse of Israel’s faith.  God inspired creativity morphs into pernicious communal idolatry that expressed gnawing doubt and a desperate need for the mechanics of teshuvah.

Bradford’s Borders Revisited

Written on February 01, 2013

Judah and Tamar (2012) 40 x 30 oil on canvas by John Bradford Courtesy the artist
John Bradford’s paintings span over 40 years of intensive exploration of the joys of the biblical narrative.  He has explicated its myriad passionate moments from almost every narrative in Genesis, Exodus, Bemidbar to the stories of Tanach such as Ruth and Naomi, David and Bathsheba and Mordechai and Esther.

It's a Thin Line
The Eruv and Jewish Community in New York and Beyond

Written on January 11, 2013

Manhattan Three Times
What a wonderful exhibition Yeshiva University Museum has mounted with “It’s a Thin Line: The Eruv and Jewish Community in New York and Beyond.”  Sensitively curated by Zachary Paul Levine under the watchful and expert halachic supervision of Rabbi Adam Mintz (see also his “The Brooklyn Eruv” in the Winter 2012 Hakirah Journal), the show traces the origins and development of the rabbinic construct known as the eruv based on the Oral Law.  

Gelernter’s Kings of Israel
Sh’ma/Listen: The Art of David Gelernter

Written on January 11, 2013

Saul
We must listen and really see the recent works of David Gelernter, artist, author and professor of computer science at Yale University.  His statements in the gallery video are riveting. And his images, especially the Kings of Israel series are revelatory.  It is in the dialectic between these two distinct approaches that we can understand his insight into the past and be guided into a present appreciation of Jewish Art. 

The Color Of Prophecy
Visualizing the Bible in a New Light

Written on December 28, 2012

Isaiah’s Symphony in Salv-A-tion Major (2009) 64” x 48”, oil on canvas by Nahum HaLevi Courtesy the artist

The rather large grasshoppers all have different human faces.  The trees have human bodies with branches sprouting out of their heads. The animals in the Peaceable Kingdom garden seated at Isaiah’s feet are painted purple, pink, blue and red. Welcome to the visionary world of Nahum HaLevi’s Latter Prophets. 

Sotheby’s Chanukah Auction: December 19, 2012

Written on December 04, 2012

Rabbi with Young Student by Kaufmann Courtesy Sotheby’s

Silence. There is an overwhelming silence that dominates the Isidor Kaufmann masterpiece, Rabbi with Young Student (catalogue #93) offered for sale at the Sotheby’s December 19th auction.  Kaufmann’s most engaging paintings for me are the deeply psychological portraits, usually of Hasidic men, young women and youths.

Borders
The Eruv in Contemporary Jewish Art

Written on November 27, 2012

The Miami Beach Eruv (1998) digital print on canvas by Mel Alexenberg Courtesy the artist

For most observant Jews, the eruv is invisible.  Each week we prepare for Shabbos: ready our food, conclude our mundane affairs, shower, dress and put the house keys in our pocket and check the web that the local eruv is up.  Unless there has been a storm or other physical disaster, we can assume everything is okay.  Just like the Shabbos calm that descends for 25 hours, the eruv operates for us in the background: essential but unnoticed.