Articles in Category: Contemporary Jewish Art

Contemporary Jewish Art

Hyman Bloom's Studio

Written on September 11, 2013

Bloom - Jew with Torah
“Hyman Bloom: Paintings and Drawings (1940 – 2005),” currently at White Box (the cutting edge international art space on Broome Street), is a rare opportunity to observe the creative process of one of the most important practitioners of 20th century Jewish Art in America.    It is as if the artist invited you into the most private recesses of his studio (which in reality he never would permit), put his arm around you and explained, “this is exactly how an artist makes paintings about being a modern Jew.”  Considering the subject of the paintings and the nature of the venue, this is a shocking and gusty show.

Contemporary Book Art and Hebrew Texts: MOBIA

Written on July 28, 2013

The “book” is a mighty big place these days and the current exhibition at MOBIA, “As Subject and Object: Contemporary Book Artists Explore Sacred Hebrew Texts” is no exception.  Highly mobile eBooks compete with online publications and traditionally bound volumes, scrolls, accordion-style tomes and folios that present equally exciting options for contemporary artists to interact with image and text in one unifying medium.  The 14 artists shown here take advantage of many of these possibilities to consider distinctly traditional Hebrew texts.  

Old and New: Mark Podwal’s Textiles for the Altneuschul in Prague

Written on December 22, 2011

Mark Podwal is a busy, busy man.  When I wrote that in these pages in September, 2010 it is now clear I didn’t know the half of it…witness his current exhibition at Yeshiva University Museum.  In what is effectively a love song to his adopted city, Prague, Podwal has had the delicious opportunity to give her Jewish community a spanking new Chanukah gift; the new Torah curtain, shulhan covers and Torah mantles.  For a Jewish artist and lover of Prague like Podwal it doesn’t get any better than that.

Podwal’s Books

Written on September 09, 2010

Good and Evil
Mark Podwal is a busy, busy man.  He has spent the last 38 years making every conceivable kind of art: innumerable paintings, 28 illustrated books written by him and the likes of Elie Wiesel, Harold Bloom and Francine Prose, children’s books, Haggadot, ceramics and graphic works. Dubbed the “Master of the True Line” by author Cynthia Ozick he has been seen on the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times since 1972 with pro-Israel political cartoons and drawings. 

Lilith by Siona Benjamin

Written on July 14, 2011

Siona Benjamin’s exhibition “Finding Home: The Art of Siona Benjamin” is simply beautiful.  Set in the spacious lobby gallery of the JCC Manhattan, it allows for a peaceful (when the kids, nannies and crowds subside) contemplation of this complex artist’s meditations on biblical women, war, exoticism and contemporary society.  

Siona Benjamin’s Megillas Esther

Written on March 24, 2011

Hanging Haman's Sons
There is nothing funny about Siona Benjamin’s Megillas Esther (2010).  Unlike some contemporary illuminated megillas that emphasize the absurd and outlandish nature of the corrupt Persian court and the buffoonish character of the king, Benjamin takes the Book of Esther quite seriously.  She is obviously deeply sensitive to the terrible consequences of God’s hester panim (hidden face) in our own time.

Learning to Count: Omer Counter by Judith Margolis
Published by

Written on June 04, 2009

Margolis Omer Counter
I am still counting. But when you, dear reader, see this, you will have finished, having safely arrived at Matan Torah.  Nonetheless, even if you meditated deeply each and every day, the fact is that we still need to count, and ponder the myriad paths of spiritual elevation that Hashem continues to offer us.   If we could just become a bit more aware of them.  Judith Margolis’ Omer Counter, currently exhibited at Hebrew Union College Museum, offers a visual and textual guide into these riches.

Harry McCormick’s Paintings: A Unique Jewish Genre

Written on July 02, 2013

Friday Night Candles
At the Chassidic Art Institute one artist, Harry McCormick, has rather amazingly fathomed the authentic heartbeat of the individual Jewish life.  This exhibition, running until July 25, shows a mere 16 paintings, but within the major works he is showing, six works reveal a deeply perceptive and sensitive chronicle of Yiddishkeit.

Visions at an Exhibition
Paintings by Leah Raab and Shany Saar NY Studio School MFA Thesis Exhibition

Written on May 30, 2013

Mannequin at War - Raab
Whether it is the disastrous report of the 12 spies or the furious condemnation that doomed an entire generation to die in the wilderness, the Torah narrative in Bamidbar turns terribly grim after the glorious inauguration of the mishkan in the second year after leaving Egypt.  With this in mind, just imagine my surprise at an encounter with two artists who address these (and other Biblical) themes right around the corner.  Leah Raab and Shany Saar recently showed their work at the prestigious New York Studio School (8th Street and Fifth Avenue) Master of Fine Art Thesis exhibition.  Both artists work, brimming with Jewish content, was eye-opening.

Ethics of the Omer
The Abstract Omer paintings of Yitzhok Moully

Written on May 23, 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 09, 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. 

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

Written on March 28, 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.

Bezalel’s Legacy: Commentary on Jewish Craft and Art

Written on February 28, 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 January 31, 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.