web analytics
September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



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
ISIS executioner holding British aid worker Alan Henning as a hostage.
Muslims Plead with ISIS for Life of UK Aid Worker Alan Henning
Latest Sections Stories

Three sets of three-day Yomim Tovim can seem overwhelming – especially when we are trying to stay healthy.

Plotkin-092614

Is a missed opportunity to do a mitzvah considered a sin?

Teens-Twenties-logo

The sounds and scents of the kitchen are cozy, familiar, but loud in the silence.

Baim-092614-Plate

Everyone has a weakness. For some people it is the inability to walk past a sales rack without dropping a few hundred dollars. For others, it’s the inability to keep their house organized.

His entire life was dedicated to Torah and he became a pivotal figure in the transmittal of the Oral Torah to the next generation.

When you don’t have anyone else to turn to… that’s when you’re tied to Hashem the closest.

While we all go to restaurants for a good meal, it is dessert, that final taste that lingers in your mouth, that is the crown jewel of any dining experience and Six Thirteen’s offerings did not disappoint.

Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.

There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.

In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.

This is an important one in raising a mentsch (and maybe even in marrying off a mentsch! listening skills are on the top of the list when I do shidduch coaching).

While multitasking is not ideal, it is often necessary and unavoidable.

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: