Writings

Torahluminations by Peter Asher Pitzele

Written on March 31, 2004

Ruth and Boaz – collage by Peter Asher Pitzele Courtesy the artist

Whence an image? The awesome power of visual art unleashes meaning, complex and subtle. No wonder halacha warned us of its destructive power in false worship.  And yet we are driven to explore its permissible borders, wondering how to conceive of our narratives and unlock their mysteries in two and three dimensions. Artist Peter Asher Pitzele strives with his work to “open the mind’s eye” even as it gives us sensual pleasure.

Tzelem
Presence and Likeness in Jewish Art

Written on March 31, 2004

Children (2008), oil on canvas & collage by Diana Kurz

Jewish Art is a grass-roots movement whose time has come. It has evolved precisely because there are those who are moved by their Jewish heritage and wish to share this experience with the art world, the general public and the Jewish community. There has never been such an exciting time.

The Whole Megillah
Megillah Esther by David Wander

Written on March 31, 2004

Ahashverous and Memuchan, illumination and calligraphy by David Wander Megillah Esther (2007)

Such a nice story the Megillah Esther is, don’t you think?  The poor Jews are in exile far from home and get into a bit of trouble with God for not being so careful about theirkashrus.  Their only sin was attending a treif banquet the headstrong King Ahashverous made for the whole kingdom.  And then sweet but unlucky Esther gets rounded up and taken to be the King’s queen.

Grand Scale
Prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Written on March 31, 2004

Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law (detail) (1590), Andrea Andreani after Domenico Beccafumi Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston

What is it about big?  Why are we impressed by size when we all know that the quality of any given thing is easily just as, if not more, important?  The simplest answer is that while man can normally make many things that are small, i.e. on a human scale, the larger something is the more effort and skill seems to be necessary.

Jewish Enough in LA?
Prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Written on March 31, 2004

Deborah Giving Judgment (1991), Acrylic on canvas, 60” X 48” by Pat Berger

The L.A Story, a selection of work from ten contemporary Los Angeles Jewish artists currently at the Hebrew Union College – Institute of Religion Museum, poses the question of what exactly does constitute Jewish Art and what is its condition today on the West Coast.

Archie Rand - Jewish Enough

Written on March 25, 2004

I'm Here

This is it. This is the one exhibition that you must see if contemporary Jewish Art matters at all. Archie Rand has been bravely creating radical Jewish art for at the last twenty years, challenging both the contemporary art establishment and the purveyors of Jewish culture. As a consequence of this insolence he has been exiled to what amounts to a critical wilderness. It is time to redeem him from exile, time for the Jewish public to take note and acknowledge the accomplishments of the foremost creator of Jewish art working today. Our cultural future depends upon it.

Had Gadya
Harbinger of the Future

Written on March 22, 2004

The World Outside 1953 by Dantzic

Had Gadya, the playful, threatening and ultimately reassuring song that ends many Seder evenings among Ashkenazi Jews, has a long history in the Haggada. It emerged from German folk songs to be first printed in the Prague Haggada of 1595. The classic commentators have equated the kid with the Jewish people and each succeeding animal as an oppressor of Israel from the cat representing Assyria to the Angel of Death representing the Turks.

Sotheby's Judaica

Written on March 04, 2004

 Ketubah, Isfahan (1856) ink and gouache on paper (36 z 33) Courtesy Sotheby's

Jewish Art has always been burdened by Jewish history. Unlike most other cultural traditions, the vicissitudes of fate have been particularly harsh and have frustrated any attempt to establish a long-standing cultural tradition for the Jewish people in their far-flung habitations. Frequently just as an art form began to take hold, an expulsion, pogrom, or oppressive decree would disrupt Jewish life and all chance of stability.

The Art of Exile - Paintings by Shoshannah Brombacher

Written on January 12, 2004

Iber di Shtadt by Shoshannah Brombacher

Paintings by Shoshannah Brombacher

Exile is punishment; exile is a constant reminder of our fallen status; exile fills us with longings for a permanent home we cannot possess. Paradoxically exile is also where we are most comfortable and where we are most creative with our lives. Exile produced the Talmud, the Zohar, the Rambam and the Shulhan Aruch. Exile, tragically and triumphantly, is still the place of Judaism. The art of Shoshannah Brombacher is a poignant exploration of the art of exile.

Moses und Aron by Arnold Schoenberg
Return to Sinai

Written on January 06, 2004

Moses and Aaron Photo by Ken Howard, Metropolitan Opera

I was transfixed the first time I saw Moses und Aron, the 1933 opera by Arnold Schoenberg. That was in 1990 at the New York City Opera and the performance at the Metropolitan Opera this December was no less exciting. The difficult, yet stimulating appeal of radical twentieth century music in the service of the biblical narrative only grew as I learned that this rarely heard masterpiece was a direct reaction to German anti-Semitism and might well be one of the first examples of Holocaust art. Schoenberg, a fully secularized apostate Jew, had responded at the height of his career to the rise of Nazism with what was essentially a call to return to Sinai.

Amputation to Wholeness

Written on November 13, 2003

Untitled (1953) oil on canvas by Mark Rothko

A Call to Art from the Torah World

"We have inherited an amputated visual culture, viscously cut off from our artistic forefathers we have every right to lay claim to," exclaimed Archie Rand, artist and professor at Columbia University. In a passionate and articulate account Rand recounted a sweeping history unknown to many. From the Jewish muralists in the third century Dura-Europos synagogue to Camille Pissarro, one of the founders of Impressionism and an important influence on Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne, Jews have played an important role in the visual arts.

The Art of Aging

Written on September 11, 2003

Old Woman in Red (1957-2003) oil on canvas (55 x 42) by Hyman Bloom Courtesy of the artist

Hyman Bloom's haunting painting Old Woman in Red presents us with a central paradigm of aging; its universality. Our past and inevitable future are frequently seen in depictions of the very old. In image after image the exhibition "The Art of Aging" mercilessly presents the undeniable connection between a communal past and our future. The old are living witnesses to the past, to lives lived remarkably like ours. Conversely, the hunched back, wrinkled face and slowed gait is a sure forecast of our future. While many of us will grow old with depressingly similar symptoms this exhibition expansively affirms that old age is considerably more than the portal to death, rather it is seen as expressing every aspect of a vital and creative life.

 

Art and Auschwitz, Art Created In The Holocaust
At The Brooklyn Museum

Written on April 13, 2003

Portrait of a Lady with a Kerchief by Feder

The Holocaust was the largest mass murder in human history. It casts an indelible shadow over everything that follows, twisting morality and normative values in unfathomable ways. The vast complicity of Western Civilization in the pre-meditated murder of six million Jews taints all culture and intellectual life to this day.

Sotheby's Tel Aviv

Written on April 09, 2003

Esther’s Child: Epilogue (2001)

Israeli Picture Book

Autour du Coq Rouge (Around the Red Rooster), painted in 1982 by aninety-five year old Marc Chagall (1887-1985), the most famous Jewish artist of the twentieth century, puzzles us with its mysterious loveliness and grace. The Chagall bursts upon us in a passionate torrent, scintillating our visual sensibilities with pinks, hot violets and lush greens that are only partially soothed by the flickering blues of distant skies. The absurdly shaped animals in the center are guarded by three hesitant figures on the left and a gigantic figure with a rooster on the right.   Behind him are a mother and child who seem to levitate above the horizon.  The prone youth in the foreground feeding a little white goat serves as a horizontal balance to the unusual and evocative Provencal landscape above.

Farbrengen: a Gathering of Images - Photographs of Jerry Dantzic

Written on April 01, 2003

The World Outside 1953 by Dantzic

A farbrengen is a gathering of Hassidism in the presence of their holy Rebbe tolearn Torah and hear his words of wisdom. This exhibition is such a gathering.The hitherto unseen photographs by the photographer Jerry Dantzic present thecollective fabric and texture of the Lubavitch community. The torah life of ahasid is seen in a joyous wedding dance, tender moments at the b'deckening andunder the chuppah, a l'chaim to the Rebbe and rapt attention at leining onPurim morning.