Articles in Category: Museums / Auction Houses

Museums / Auction Houses

Dialogues with the Unknown
Anette Pier and Michael Hafftka at YUM

Written on June 21, 2009

Honi ha Magil, oil on canvas by Michael Hafftka Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Two deeply idiosyncratic exhibitions at Yeshiva University Museum warrant close inspection if only to show how the diverse richness of biblical and Judaic subject matter can inspire contemporary artists.  The very eclectic nature of both artist’s works speaks volumes about the possibilities available when artists take Jewish subjects seriously and subsequently embrace them with their own demons.

Chagall’s Influence
Mystical Storytelling at MOBIA: Chagall and the Russian Jewish Theater at Jewish Museum

Written on December 21, 2008

Jacob Blessed by Isaac, The Bible (1957) etching by Marc Chagall Courtesy the Jewish Museum

In 1931 Marc Chagall embarked on a series of etchings of the Bible that would become a pervasive creative theme for the rest of his life.  For all of his forays into the world of myth, shtetl fable and imagination, Chagall would always return to the Bible as a fundamental means of expression.

Rabbinic Drawing in Space
Ben Schachter’s Eruv Maps

Written on November 06, 2008

Squirrel Hill Eruv (2007), 20 x 30, by Ben Schachter Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

In the world of art and culture the rabbis generally get a bad rap.  From time immemorial they have often been thought of as the prototypical zealous guardians, seen as prohibiting all sorts of imagery with righteous abandon, constantly erecting walls to guard against anything that might be tainted with idolatry.  Many might even argue that the pursuit of the visual arts, whether representational or abstract, to be no more that “bittle Torah,” a waste of precious time.

Envisioning Maps

Written on October 26, 2008

Exodus II (2000), Mixed Media on Vinyl by Tamar Hirschl Courtesy Hebrew Union College Museum

God commands Ezekiel to make a map; “take a brick and put it in front of you, and incise on it a city, Jerusalem.  Set up a siege against it…This shall be an omen for the House of Israel.” (Ezekiel 4:1-3)  This map became a symbolic reality, a graphic tool used to convince the Jews that their precious city could indeed be destroyed as punishment for their sins. 

Yom Kippur And The Akeidah
Paintings at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Written on September 23, 2008

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on the Day of Atonement (1878), oil on canvas by Maurycy Gottlieb Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel

The Akeidah casts a very long shadow in the lives of all Jews, every day and particularly at this time of year.   The terrifying narrative in Genesis 22, only 19 lines long, and yet recited every morning as prelude to the first recitation of “Shema Yisrael” sets the essential tone of our prayers.  We begin our daily approach to G-d with the plea, ” Master of all worlds! Not in the merit of our righteousness do we cast our supplications before Your, but in the merit of Your abundant mercy.”

Tanach at the Tel Aviv Museum

Written on June 21, 2008

David and Saul (1951) oil on canvas by Avraham Naton  Courtesy Tel Aviv Museum of Art

As an artist when I visit a museum I relish the opportunity to soak up a gamut of aesthetic experiences, the wonderful array of visual and intellectual stimulation that characterizes looking at any kind of art.  Simultaneously I am constantly on the look-out for works of specifically Jewish interest.   And of course always at the top of my surveys are those artworks that one way or the other deal with the Bible.

Ben Wilson
The Roots of Abstraction

Written on May 19, 2008

Yellow Ark (1975), oil on canvas by Ben Wilson Courtesy Chassidic Art Institute

The road one chooses in Art, much like life, does not necessarily determine the final destination.  A youth can start in yeshiva and paradoxically end up a surgeon, a public school student can still find their way into the rabbinate.

Rembrandt’s Abraham
Etchings at Swann Galleries

Written on May 05, 2008

Abraham’s Sacrifice (1655), etching by Rembrandt van Rijn Courtesy Swann Galleries

“And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham.’  And he replied, ‘Here I am.’ (Genesis 22:1)   What was the nature of this test and, more to the point, isn’t this test also a test of the Jewish people from generation to generation? When did the test really begin?  At that moment or perhaps years earlier.

Poussin’s Bible

Written on April 06, 2008

Winter (The Flood); Detail of Man Praying (1660) Oil on canvas by Nicolas Poussin Musee du Louvre, Paris, Departement des Peintures

Near the end of his long and productive life Nicolas Poussin was commissioned to paint in 1660 an unusual series of paintings called the “Four Seasons.”  They very quickly became some of the best known and beloved of his artworks; utilizing four scenes from the Hebrew Bible to depict the Ages of Man as the seasons of the year; Adam and Eve as Spring; Boaz and Ruth as Summer; The Spies with the Grapes of the Promised Land as Autumn and finally, The Flood as Winter.

Warhol’s Jews
Ten Portraits Reconsidered

Written on March 23, 2008

Gertrude Stein (1980) acrylic and ink on canvas by Andy Warhol “Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century” Jewish Museum, New York

When an artist creates, intention, elementary to the creative process, is paradoxically secondary to the finished work.  Once the art work is on view in the larger world it must stand on its own, engaging the audience on its aesthetic merits and creating a meaningful dialogue by means of its content and subject matter.

Megillat Esther
The Graphic Novel by JT Waldman

Written on February 09, 2008

Megillat Esther by JT Waldman (2005) The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia

JT Waldman’s Megillat Esther is brash, loud and groundbreaking.  Created as a graphic novel it is the first time the megillah has been illustrated in this radical late 20th century art form.  Nonetheless, the question remains; can a comic book express the complexity of the Book of Esther?

One Family
Photographs of Vardi Kahana

Written on January 22, 2008

Three Sisters, 1992 by Vardi Kahana Courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery

The Holocaust was “Ground Zero of the Greenwald-Kahana family.”  In the midst of the murderous fury of 1944 three sisters were tattooed with consecutive numbers in Auschwitz.  They were lucky; they survived while so many of their family perished.  The sisters found their way to Israel where they met men, married, had children who had children who will have children.

Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses
Woodcarving from the Synagogue to the Carousel

Written on November 17, 2007

Standing Horse with Raised Head by Charles Carmel, Coney Island, c.1910 The Charlotte Dinger Collection Photo by August Bandal, New York

Much like the Jewish people themselves the legacy of Jewish Art has miraculously survived seemingly endless assaults of the past two centuries.  In Eastern Europe the forces of assimilation, cultural denial and holocaust have worked tirelessly to abandon, reject and destroy a vast portion of our cultural birthright.

Davidson, Singer and the Jews

Written on October 18, 2007

Storekeepers from a candy store on Avenue B (1973) gelatin silver print by Bruce Davidson Collection of the artist, courtesy of the Howard Greenberg Gallery.   © Bruce Davidson Magnum Photos.

Sometime in 1967 Bruce Davidson, the photographer, met Isaac Bashevis Singer, the writer and they went down to the Lower East Side to the Garden Cafeteria to chat, have coffee and rice pudding.  It began a creative friendship that lasted more than twenty years until Singer passed away in 1991.

Zabari’s Figures

Written on September 19, 2007

Moshe Zabari has accomplished a remarkable feat…he has put the Matriarchs literally on top of the Torah.  What a triumph for religious feminism, what a triumph for Jewish Art! His recent series of sterling silver Torah Finials (Rimonim) feature Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah as the honored subjects to effectively crown our holy scrolls.