Articles in Category: Artists


Shapiro’s Midrash
Paintings from Midrash by Brian Shapiro

Written on October 29, 2011

Jacob and the Angel (2011), oil on canvas, 22 x 22 by Brian Shapiro Courtesy the artist

The midrashic world is a dangerous place to inhabit.  It plays fast and loose with our sacred texts to fathom their deeper meanings, solve vexing textual and conceptual problems and, finally, make sense of the holy words in contemporary terms.  Midrash is passionate and deeply creative, just as the current midrashic paintings of Brian Shapiro currently on view at the Chassidic Art Institute until December 8, 2011.

Divine Encounter and the Sacred Doorway
Robert Kirschbaum: Small Paintings from The Akedah Series

Written on October 15, 2011

Akedah #51 (2008-2009) Mixed media on paper 9” x 8” by Robert Kirschbaum Courtesy the artist

Our encounters with the Divine are precious moments of personal religiosity.  We believe that when we pray we are speaking directly to God and at that moment we are in the Divine presence.  And yet we are seldom conscious of the awe and fear we should also feel.

Acts of Kindness and Jewish Art
The Art of Tanya Fredman

Written on June 02, 2011

And It All Turned Upside Down (2011) Relief sculpture by Tanya Fredman Courtesy Tanya Fredman

Acts of Loving Kindness. This mitzvah is included next to Torah study in the precepts that have no limit, as well as the precepts that are rewarded in this World and in the World to Come. This is surly one of the choicest mitzvahs available to us in our daily lives.  We are told that its object is the rich and poor alike, the dead as well as the living.   It is expressed in personal effort and involvement in the quietest ways imaginable.  And perhaps most surprisingly, it is found in the art of Tanya Fredman.

Last Folio
A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc

Written on April 03, 2011

Tefillin Bardejov, 2008, photograph by Yuri Dojc Courtesy the artist

Can the Holocaust be memorialized by an aesthetically beautiful object?   Doesn’t the obscenity of the crime create a fundamental contradiction?  The question still stands 66 years later, even as art is still being made about the Holocaust. Jewish creativity seeks to smother hate. But the questions persist: can a memorial ignite hope instead of despair?

Moriah’s Illuminated Torah

Written on January 17, 2011

Gathering at Mount Sinai (2001), oil on canvas, 12’ X 12’ by Avner Moriah Courtesy Jewish Theological Seminary, New York

Avner Moriah, the well-known Israeli artist, has illuminated the Book of Genesis.  No small feat, he has conjured images for all the major narratives as well as alluding to other analogous stories throughout the Torah.   He sees the first book of Torah as nothing less than “a poem,” a minimalist text that yields an unending series of explorations of the mysteries and conundrums of the human condition.  While this is hardly the first nor largest of his explorations of biblical and Jewish narrative, it is easily the most ambitious.

Kiefer’s Challenge

Written on December 14, 2010

Jacobs Ladder

The German artist Anselm Kiefer has once again taken New York by storm. Ensconced at the prestigious Gagosian Gallery, Next Year in Jerusalem, his latest New York show, has met with reviews ranging from the gushing to the grudgingly respectful.  To Roberta Smith, the veteran New York Times art critic, the massive exhibit, which closes December 18, is “possibly the best [Kiefer] has ever mounted in the city,” even as Smith also comments, more caustically, that it amounts to “middlebrow art as catharsis, spectacle with a message.”

Landscapes for Humanity
Paintings by Batya F. Kuncman

Written on October 24, 2010

LeAhava, photograph by Batya Kuncman Courtesy Charter Oak Cultural Center

The world is complicated.  Surely it seems that Divine justice is elusive.  God’s role is frequently masked and our human situation is terribly fragile. Yet according to artist Batya F. Kuncman our condition is “most promising.”  Her optimistic artwork is designed to illuminate this shadowy nature of our existence and strives for clarity and ultimate closeness to God.  In “Landscapes for Humanity” currently at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art images of infants are the tools she uses to explicate her belief.

Sarah’s Trials: A Personal View
Paintings by Richard McBee at the JCC Manhattan

Written on September 21, 2010

Isaac Comforted (2008) Oil on canvas, 6’ x 5’ by Richard McBee

God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, Sarah’s only child.  Our forefather gets up early and obeys, not telling Sarah his wife of 47 years.  According to Rashi (Genesis 23:2) when she finds out about this, she dies of shock.  This has always disturbed me.  Upon reflection other things about their relationship seemed problematic.

Genre Painting by Brian Shapiro

Written on August 08, 2010

Generations (2010) – oil on canvas (44”x 58”) by Brian Shapiro Courtesy the artist

Two Jewish holidays particularly command us to be connected with our vast history.  Most notably the Passover Haggadah demands that we feel as if we too went out of Egypt with the Jewish masses.  Less obvious is Tisha b’Av.

Howard Lerner’s Universe
Sculpture and the Bible

Written on May 11, 2010

Ezekiel’s Vision (2006) detail; oil on wood, found objects by Howard Lerner Courtesy the artist

Walking into Howard Lerner’s studio is like falling headfirst into a Tanach made of sculpture.  Right near the door is a 10 foot high Tower of Babel.  Partially hidden behind this behemoth is a thoroughly idiosyncratic Vision of Ezekiel.  Further along into the somewhat cluttered, but not chaotic, studio is a vista of massive sculptures; The Ark of the Covenant looms ahead while Elijah’s Ascension is on the left, just past a 10 foot depiction of Enoch.  To be totally honest, it’s all a bit frightening.   Every piece is a diverse assemblage of found objects hammering home a specific passage with a literal determination.  It is as if one is inhabiting a Biblical Hall of Mirrors, each holy book or personage examined scrupulously, exaggerated and then lovingly depicted.

Iconic Images from Israel
Rina Castelnuovo: Photographs

Written on May 01, 2010

Beersheba, Israel, 2009; color photograph by Rina Castelnuovo Courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery

Iconic images are rare, especially in the mundane world of photojournalism.  But when they happen their intense simplicity compresses a host of ideas and emotions in a single picture, making complexity seem transparent. Israeli photojournalist Rina Castelnuovo excels at this skill.  Her first solo exhibition currently at the Andrea Meislin Gallery is a breathtaking tour-de-force of photographic insight focusing on the complex reality of Israeli life.

The Enigma of the Name
The 42 Letter Name by Robert Kirschbaum

Written on March 24, 2010

Nine Square Cube (2009)

God’s Names.  What an odd notion.  And yet they provide us with a means of knowing Him better and, simultaneously, distancing us from the unfathomable enormity of His essence. The Bible ascribes approximately nine appellations, including ‘Lord,’ ‘The Tetragrammaton’ and other variants of the name ‘God.’  Later the Rabbis evolved another nine names, all of which are references to His attributes such as Master of the Universe or the All-Merciful.  Curiously two names are only references to the number of letters that make up the otherwise mysterious and unpronounceable name; the 12 letter Name of God and the 42 letter Name of God (Kiddushin 71a). 

Szyk Haggadah
To Serve My People: Part II

Written on March 03, 2010

Haman at the Gallows; Book of Esther (1950) by Arthur Szyk

Arthur Szyk saw the face of Haman. It was Hitler. And he knew what had to be done. His only tools were his art and he labored mightily against the terrible enemy.  In the early 1930’s Szyk took up the Haggadah as his weapon. 

Kupferminc’s Wanderings

Written on October 06, 2009

Four Who Entered the Garden (2006), 15” X 24”; etching-aquatint by Mirta Kupferminc Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

Mirta Kupferminc is an artist who has made her artistic mission a search for meaning in a world profoundly unstable, problematic and filled with the terrors of memory not entirely her own.  As the child of Holocaust survivors, uprooted from Europe and planted in Argentina, one prevailing motif for her is that of a witness to the Holocaust one generation removed.  A prominent text panel quotes Saul Sosnowski: “…to be a witness who loves unconditionally; daring to judge God over Auschwitz and find him guilty; and pray to him still, even there, even in Auschwitz.”

Joel Silverstein
Brighton Beach Bible

Written on July 26, 2009

Babel, 1998 (acrylic on wood, 5’ X 6’) by Joel Silverstein Courtesy the artist

“We are in effect changing the rules as to what is aesthetically acceptable….It is exciting precisely because we are changing the discourse [about Jewish visual expression and contemporary art].”  Joel Silverstein made this startling proclamation in these pages three months ago in his exhibition essay Tzelem: Presence and Likeness in Jewish Art (May 6, 2009).