Photo Credit:
Solomon (2012) by David Gelernter Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

The deeply disillusioned David is lost in eternal doubt and depression, somehow trapped in memories of mistakes gnawing at his soul. David, the namesake of the artist himself, wears a garment that is orange-red and seems blood stained, a terrible reflection of his mangled right hand.

Shma’ah (2010-2012) by David Gelernter
Courtesy Yeshiva University Museum

Finally Solomon is the closest to the medieval heraldry that the gisants summon. The crowned monarch rests with his eyes closed, majestic sword in his hands next to a shield faintly displaying a menorah. Yet the tortured surface of the painting alerts us to the fact that all is not well. We know his kingdom will be immediately divided, internecine warfare and idolatry will become the norm until his Holy Temple is destroyed by God’s wrath. And then we notice that Solomon’s tzitzis are not hanging down, rather they appear to be flying up. Is this image of the great Solomon actually falling down, plummeting into the abyss? It is a terrifying prospect for the wisest man who ever lived.

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David Gelernter’s visual works and stirring proclamations provide us with an invaluable challenge. He demands that contemporary Jewish Art must be a courageous, audacious, and brutally honest transformation of our deeply beautiful Jewish tradition. And he is totally correct.

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