web analytics
March 31, 2015 / 11 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

An Imagined Conversation: Brooklyn Jewish Arts Gallery

Brooklyn Jewish Arts Gallery 

Congregation B’nai Jacob; 401 9th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenue)

Brooklyn, NY. (718) 965-9836
www.bjag.org

Artists Reception: Thursday, May 15; 6 – 10 p.m.; Sunday, May 19th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open by appointment until June 15, 2003.

 

 

A group show, like the one at the Brooklyn Jewish Arts Gallery opening on May 15, is notoriously difficult to view. The uniqueness of each artist’s perspective fractures the experience into unrelated segments.

Five different artists; Betzalel Cadena (he also curated the show), Shoshana Golin, Ewa Harabasz, Richard McBee (the same as this reviewer) and Alex Zwarenstein, present very different visions in over 40 works of art. Five kinds of subject matter complicated by five diverse styles can produce a visual cacophony that the rubric of “Diversity” can do little to correct.

If, on the other hand, the viewer ruthlessly segregates the visual experience for each artist, what is the sense of exhibiting them together? One way out of this dilemma is to approach the works the way many artists do, focusing on the relationships between disparate works and setting up a formal conversation between them, as if the artists were speaking to one another. Let us imagine this kind of conversation.

Betzalel Cadena’s “Purim” loudly initiates the dialogue in a thick South American accent. “All is illusion and all is mystery that is encoded in the Holy Kabbalah. My symbolic paintings are a mystery for you to unlock!” Cadena is well acquainted with mystery. His family has been in Columbia, South America since 1533, living for centuries as secret Jews under the rule of the Inquisition. When he was seven years old, he was initiated into the mysteries this faith by his grandfather, learning everything orally in a secret shul hidden in his family’s cacao factory. The symbolic mask in “Purim” covers and reveals the face beneath, simultaneously acting as a hand that obscures the girl’s features. One eye acts as a window into the soul that pierces the sky blue with a symbolic sun. Cadena’s bright tropical colors see the world on a symbolic level twice removed from reality.

The neighboring painting “Fish” by Alex Zwarenstein would protest. “Illusion may be on the surface, but it is precisely in the surface description that an ultimate truth can be unlocked. The abstract forms in the most common items, building facades, cityscapes, even freshly caught fish, reveal an elegant melody.” Zwarenstein is the consummate down-to-earth artist. Born and raised in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he settled in England for his higher education at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

For the past 10 years, he has been a successful chronicler of lower Manhattan’s facades (represented by Eleanor Ettinger Gallery in Soho). The endless diversity of verticals, horizontals and diagonals make a rich geometry of the cast iron facades. “The inherent abstraction in all reality is the truth of appearances. Things are what they seem… we just must be guided to see them deeply enough.” Zwarenstein’s apparent realism wishes to banish mystery as much as Cadena’s symbolism embraces it. Their work challenges each other across the gallery.

Ewa Harabasz’s brooding interiors cast a note of spiritual gravity in the discussion. “The fundamental elements of dark and light, maroon and black, are more than sufficient to explore the tragic history of our times. In my black paintings, these sacred spaces are oppressive, prison-like interiors pierced by verticals of light that offer hope and freedom.” Zwarenstein
might comment that, “verticals are the scaffolding to the sublime. They are found everywhere you see a building or a human structure.” Harabasz would agree. Her fundamentally abstract work feels at home with the scaffolding and flat color of Zwarenstein’s cityscapes. But there are important differences. Her large oil paintings on wood are rarified and somber, a kind of ode to classic abstraction with the barest reference to reality. His intense oils and watercolors are firmly immersed in the here and now. This conversation about abstraction is headed in opposite directions even as it affirms a common language.

A common language seems to link the work of Shoshana Golin and Richard McBee. Both are engrossed by a Biblical world that addresses contemporary reality.

Golin, a printmaker and painter, symbolically engages the tragedy of Diaspora with “The Ark in Exile.” The Cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant were initially created facing one another with their wings outstretched forming a kind of seat from whence G-d would speak to the
Jewish people. The Midrash comments that when the Jewish people sinned, the Cherubim turned away from one another in mournful shame. This diminutive etching imagines the Ark hidden today in a netherworld exhibiting the Cherubim in a struggle for liberation from Exile. Our daily Diaspora, whether expressed here or in the mysteriously masked participants in her Esther series, is the source of a continual lament. Golin’s work shares an affinity for real surfaces with Zwarenstein even as she occupies a symbolic realm closer to Cadena.

Another lament is echoed in Richard McBee’s painting of the “Akeidah; After.” This narrative of doubt and estrangement depicts father and son as they begin to fully realize what just transpired. Both were willing participants in a Divine drama that would have destroyed the future for both of them. And now the future is forever transformed into a contemporary reality of anxiety. We have been exposed to an unfathomable vision of G-d that makes Him even more terrifying. “The reality of G-d’s terrible sanctity, His distance and unknowableness is confronted by our continued faith.”

For Golin, rooted in family and the Orthodox community, the Diaspora is simply our contemporary reality. McBee sees this as an intractable modern dilemma representing a world deeply askew, bereft of consolation, symbolic or otherwise.

Cadena’s reassurance of symbolic truth is cast into stark relief by McBee’s narrative doubt and Golin’s symbolic lament. The moody abstractions of Harabasz probing history and sacred spaces operate as a counterpoint to the optimistic materialism of Zwarenstein. These five Jewish artists each add something to the dialogue, offering different views of reality that all touch on one another. Added together, we know something new as each is slightly altered and revealed within this imagined conversation.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art.
Please feel free to email him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “An Imagined Conversation: Brooklyn Jewish Arts Gallery”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Talks between Iran and the P5+1 at Lausanne are likely to be extended beyond Obama's self-imposed deadline.
Iran Likely to Force Obama to Back Down on ‘Deadline Threat’
Latest Sections Stories
Food-Talk---Eller-logo

While we are all accustomed to the occasional recipe substitutions – swapping milk for creamer, applesauce for oil – gluten-free cooking is a whole different ballgame.

Something-Cooking-logo

Until the year I decided to put a stop to all my tremors. I realized that if I wanted my family to experience Pesach and its preparations as uplifting and fulfilling, I’d have to relax and loosen up.

Teens-032715

David looked up. “Hatzlacha, Dina,” he smiled. “I hope everything goes well.”

In 1756, when the ominous threat of Islamic terror against Jews reached Tunis as well, Friha became one of its tragic victims.

Are we allowed to lie for shalom bayis? It would seem so, but what might be a healthy guideline for when it’s okay and when it’s not?

The connection between what I experienced as a high school teenager and the adult I am today did not come easy to me.

Isn’t therapy about being yourself; aren’t there different ways for people to communicate with each other?

Jack was awarded a blue and gold first-place trophy, appropriately topped off with a golden bee.

Participating in ManiCures during the school day may feel like a break from learning, but the intended message to the students was loud and clear. Learning and chesed come in all forms, and can be fun.

Building campaign chairman Jack Gluck has led the effort over many years.

When using an extension cord always make sure to use the correct rated extension cord.

There was no question that when Mrs. Cohen entered the room to meet the teacher she was hostile from the outset.

Szold was among the founders and leaders (she served on its executive committee) of Ichud (“Unity”), a political group that campaigned against the creation of an independent, sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael.

My friend is a strong and capable Jewish woman, but she acted with a passivity that seemed out of character.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/an-imagined-conversation-brooklyn-jewish-arts-gallery/2003/06/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: