Articles in Category: Contemporary Jewish Art

Contemporary Jewish Art

Mirroring Evil at the Jewish Museum

Written on May 07, 2002

Enfants Gates

Sacred, Profane or Art?

Mirroring Evil - Nazi Imagery/Recent Art, which opened at the Jewish Museum on March 17, consistently elicits either passionate denunciation or thoughtful praise. Edward Rothstein, commenting on the show in The New York Times, characterizes this phenomenon as a result of two distinct approaches to the Holocaust. One sees the Holocaust as a horrifying event among many in mankind’s sordid history.

Archie Rand and the B’nai Yosef Murals Part 3

Written on April 21, 2002

I'm Here

The Painted Shul

In 1978, almost a year after Archie Rand had finished the upstairs murals at the B’nai Yosef synagogue in Brooklyn, he was invited to create additional murals downstairs in the two study halls. The pomp and ceremony of the Holidays and Sabbaths were represented upstairs in an open and expansive space, but downstairs was a weekday, down-to-earth affair. In these rooms, enclosed and intimate, there was a constant flow and presence of male Jews in over ten consecutive minyans conducted every morning, noon and evening. The study hall, occupied all day by men learning Torah, is the creative hub of Torah knowledge in this and every synagogue complex. In this different environment Rand altered his aesthetic strategy. What he created was a sanctuary of security and beauty.

Archie Rand and the B’nai Yosef Murals Part 2

Written on April 15, 2002

I'm Here

The Painted Shul

“Stylistic unity is blasphemy in synagogue decoration. Such unity becomes an act of hubris on the part of the artist,” declares artist Archie Rand, explaining the aesthetics of the wildly diverse murals at the B’nai Yosef synagogue in Brooklyn. His unique artistic and theological vision arises out of a volatile mix of late Modernist aesthetics known as Postmodernism, Rand’s fascination with esoteric religious symbolism and his weakness for Pop Art irreverence.

Archie Rand and the B’nai Yosef Murals Part 1

Written on April 07, 2002

I'm Here

The Painted Shul

At the corner of Ocean Parkway and Avenue P in Brooklyn stands Congregation B’nai Yosef, a distinguished Sephardi synagogue affectionately known as the “Painted Shul.” From the street it is an unremarkable structure; a freestanding early nineteen-seventies building sporting a three-story brick façade. But once you ascend to the main sanctuary one flight up you have entered a transformed space.


Written on March 19, 2002

Omer Counter Schwartzbart

Anticipation is a powerful emotion indeed! When we count the omer, we are anticipating the holiday of Shavous and the re-enactment of receiving the Torah. We count each day, knowing full well that on the next day we will count again until forty-nine. We are confident as to where we are going, knowing that anticipation is a form of faith. Counting for observant Jews is really an act of devotion. We cherish each and every day that spans our trek from the constraints of Egyptian slavery to our liberation at Har Sinai. As an expression of hiddur mitzvah Jewish artists make omer counters to guide our way along this path of devotion.

Gad Almaliah

Written on February 04, 2002

We Were All Slaves (2001) construction by Gad Almaliah

Life on the Book
Constructions by Gad Almaliah

The Land of Israel was possessed by a terrible drought and prayer was necessary. “It happened that the people said to Honi the Circle Drawer, pray for rain to fall…He prayed and no rain fell. What did he do? He drew a circle and stood within it and exclaimed, Master of the Universe, thy children have turned to me because they believe me to be as a member of thy household; I swear by Thy great Name that I will not move from here until Thou has mercy upon Thy children. Rain then began to drip, and thereupon he exclaimed: It is not for this that I have prayed but for rain [to fill] cisterns, ditches and caves. The rain then began to come down with great force, and thereupon he exclaimed, it is not for this that I have prayed but for rain of benevolence, blessing and bounty. Rain then fell in the normal way…(Taanis 3:8)”

Biblical Paintings by John Bradford

Written on December 16, 2001

I'm Here

Biblical Paintings - American Identity
An Appreciation

“And though I cannot attain to much herein, yet I am refreshed to have seen some glimpse thereof (as Moses saw the Land of Canaan afar off.) My aim and desire is to see how the words and phrases lie in the holy text; and to discern somewhat of the same for my own account.”

Bezalel - 92 Years Survey at the Yeshiva University Museum

Written on December 10, 2001

I'm Here

The Power of Ritual Objects
92 Years of Judaica at Bezalel

When one lights that very special menorah or breathes deeply near a hand-crafted besomiah at havdalah, one releases the “power of the ritual object and [confronts] the questions it raises.” Such Judaica is the “intersection of belief and art,” a veritable cornucopia of meanings and esthetic delights. Such is the experience at 92 Years of Judaica at Bezalel, Continuity and Change, currently at the Yeshiva University Museum as expressed by the curator, Muli Ben Sasson.

The Paintings of Leah Ashkenazy

Written on September 04, 2001

 The Necklace (1999)Oil painting on canvas by Leah Ashkinazi (36” X 24”)

You see, there is just something about that little girl that I can’t get out of my mind. How does she face those fire-breathing beasts? Her certainty shakes me and leave me sleepless. Is it because the two monsters threaten the funny little house with the all-seeing eyes and yet mysteriously ignore the little girl. Again the little girl. How can she calmly walk in the field, just off the road yet, and not run from the terrible monsters that hover over her?

Ita Aber

Written on January 20, 2001

Rabbi with Torah

55 Year Retrospective Exhibition

Ita Aber is a very unusual artist. Her work is in almost every major Jewish museum throughout the world. She is a master of the Fabric Arts, which is, by its very nature, an interdisciplinary field. As practiced by Ita Aber the fabric arts explodes in scale to include the diverse skills of embroidering, beadwork, sewing, appliqué, silkscreen, jewelry design, weaving, painting, sculpture and assemblage. The stunning range of her talents is reflected in the vast array of art work and Judaic objects she has produced. From wall hangings, jewelry and sculpture to Torah covers, ethrog boxes and purim masks, there is practically no area of Judaica or three dimensional art that is not represented here at the Broome Street Gallery in a retrospective covering 55 years of her very successful career. In addition, her diverse career is not limited to her work as an artist. She is also a conservator of textiles, an art historian, a curator, teacher and author of The Art of Judaic Needlework: Traditional and Contemporary Designs (Scribner 1979).

Itshak Holtz

Written on January 20, 2001

Rabbi with Torah

Jewish Genre Painting

Itshak Holtz is an artist totally immersed in the Jewish genre. He was born in Poland, grew up in Israel, mainly in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Geula, and for the last thirty-five years he has maintained homes in both New York and Jerusalem. He is comfortably rooted in a Jewish life of religiosity, love of Israel and respect for the Jewish experience in the Diaspora. Holtz is a thoroughly modern Jew; a cosmopolitan with deep roots in Israel and America, who is also a highly successful painter specializing in one aspect of his own history and reality, Jewish genre painting.

The Biblical Painters Journey

Written on September 12, 2000

Sodom Oil on Canvas by Richard McBee

Come on a journey with me, to a time when four artists were young, idealistic and filled with a passion to remake their world and create a new vision in response to a sterile and empty art world. It was the mid-70’s, the vibrancy of abstract expressionism was long gone and the art world was cranking out smaller and shorter ‘movements’ one after another with less visual interest and more intellectual cynicism. Painting was declared dead and media glitz was offered as an answer to our cultural malaise. A small group of artists in downtown Manhattan declared that it was still possible to do meaningful figurative painting and out of that group these four choose the subject matter of the Bible as their banner.

The Wrestle in Steel by Grisha Bruskin at the Jewish Museum

Written on June 27, 2000

The Wrestle in Steel by Grisha Bruskin at the Jewish Museum

Focus. Focus is what you need as you enter the contemporary art section in the Jewish Museum’s permanent collection. In the previous room there is a constant video voice expressing opinions of contemporary Jews concerning a Jewish future. On the right wall there is a black and magenta painting of Barbara Streistand as Yentl, bright and big. On the left, some abstract sculpture. But you must focus on the stainless steel sculpture called The Wrestle right in the middle of the room. A flat cut out silhouette in dull steel. It is hard to see with all this visual and audio background noise and distraction.