web analytics
November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » Sections » Arts »

Gelernter’s Kings of Israel


Solomon (2012) by David Gelernter
Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Solomon (2012) by David Gelernter Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Sh’ma/Listen: The Art of David Gelernter
Yeshiva University Museum – Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street, NYC; (212) 294 8330
www.yumuseum.org
Until January 20, 2013

The recent works of David Gelernter, artist, author and professor of computer science at Yale University, compel us to listen and really see. His statements in the gallery video are riveting and his images, especially the Kings of Israel series are revelatory. It is in the dialectic between these two distinct approaches that we can understand his insight into the past and be guided into a present appreciation of Jewish Art.

Kings of Israel (2012) by David Gelernter
Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Gelernter does not hesitate to proclaim that, ”Beauty is central to Judaism. There is no more fundamental drive in Judaism than the drive to be beautiful. It is intrinsic to Judaism, and it has to propel the art of Judaism…to be bold enough to take the lead.” What Gelernter has demanded is that we see the aesthetic component in the overwhelmingly textual and intellectual corpus of our Jewish tradition. What he points to is that the structure of our beliefs, the structure of our halacha, the methodology of Jewish thought from Tanach to Midrash to Talmud to commentary is deeply concerned with a sense of beauty, i.e. a unique aesthetic. And he has demanded that contemporary Jewish art reflect and appreciate that aesthetic. Nonetheless he recognizes that the artist does not operate in a cultural vacuum. “A Jew who doesn’t help himself to the best of Christian art is disgracing himself, turning his back on what rightly belongs to him, ideas he should be building upon.” And one might ask, what is it that “rightly belongs to him?” I would say both the elemental Jewish ideas embedded in Christianity (monotheism, justice, faith) and the notion that a visual aesthetic is one important way in which a people expresses itself.

Gelernter pictorially encounters Judaism in two spheres. One is the raw text. Many of the exhibition’s paintings are aesthetic confrontations with biblical or liturgical texts such as Sh’ma, Vehu rechum, Hamavdil, or Ashrei. He centers the text in the image written in an approximation of Ashkenazi Square Script found in many medieval Ashkenazi manuscripts. This gives the isolated phrases a kind of historical dignity and importance and therefore in many examples the text irreducibly dominates, forcing its primacy on both the composition and painterly invention that Gelernter clearly revels in. When other decorative elements (also inspired from medieval manuscripts) or the sheer tactile appeal of impasto and exotic materials such as gold leaf and liquid iron dominates, the text begins to be incoherent and teeters toward obliteration. While the resulting works have a lush beauty, an integration with sacred text or an elevation of the visual to dialogue with holy writ is elusive. Although the use of text in Jewish Art is as ancient as the Dura Europos murals and ancient synagogue mosaics, it is especially confounding for the contemporary artist if removed from well-worn contexts. The painterly and the typographic seem to exist only in an uneasy tension.

Saul (detail (2012) by David Gelernter
Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Gelernter’s recent series “The Kings of Israel” bravely confronts the troubled history of Jewish monarchy at its source. While we are all familiar with rabbinic exhortations to the contrary, Saul was a tragic failure, David a fugitive with a shameful past and Solomon corrupted by the excesses of power. Gelernter does not flinch from the bare bones of biblical history. Appropriating French medieval funerary sculpture of reclining kings (gisants), Gelernter has created “Jewish Gisants,” three massive paintings (each approximately 5’ X 3’) ominously leaning into the gallery wall. Read as Hebrew, right to left, we see Saul, David and finally Solomon. Each is appropriately labeled with his name as “King of Israel” much in the manner of the aforementioned tomb sculpture. But here the similarity ends. As these portraits of tragedy draw us back into the biblical narrative we reencounter the men who would dare to be Israel’s first kings. Saul turns his head in a profile of defeated agony that is made even more poignant by the tzitzis he has wrapped around his gnarled fingers. His piety could not prevent him from grievous error. Golden abstracted fingers attack his head as we understand there is no peace in death for this fallen Jewish king.

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 “Gelernter’s Kings of Israel”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz delivers lecture.
IDF Chief Rabbi: Nothing is Holy to Muslims on Temple Mount except Al Aqsa
Latest Sections Stories
West-Coast-logo

Lester Crown, a perennial member of the Forbes 400 list since 1982 and founder of the prestigious Covenant Foundation, took the stage in Washington, D.C. before a room of high-powered dignitaries, philanthropists, and innovators.

Collecting-History-logo

Not as well known, however, is Keller’s involvement with Jewish and Israeli communities.

Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.

This core idea of memory is very difficult to fully comprehend; however, it is essential.

Sometimes the most powerful countermove one can make when a person is screaming is to calmly say that her behavior is not helpful and then continue interacting with the rest of the family while ignoring the enraged person.

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall divide within you.”

Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.

There were many French Jews who jumped at the chance to shed their ancient identity and assimilate.

As Rabbi Shemtov stood on the stage and looked out at the attendees, he told them that “Rather than take photos with your cellphones, take a mental photo and keep this Shabbat in your mind and take it with you throughout your life.”

Yeshiva v’Kollel Bais Moshe Chaim will be holding a grand celebration on the occasion of the institution’s 40th anniversary on Sunday evening, December 7. Alumni, students, friends and faculty of the yeshiva, also known as Talmudic University of Florida, will celebrate the achievement and vision of its founders and the spiritual guidance of its educational […]

The yeshiva night accommodates all levels of Jewish education.

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/arts/gelernters-kings-of-israel/2013/01/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: