web analytics
May 6, 2015 / 17 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Generations


The Tenth Man – oil on canvas (6.5’ x 10’) by Brian Shapiro
Courtesy the artist

The Tenth Man – oil on canvas (6.5’ x 10’) by Brian Shapiro Courtesy the artist

Genre Painting by Brian Shapiro
brianshapiroart.com

Two Jewish holidays particularly command us to be connected with our vast history. Most notably Passover demands that we feel as if we too went out of Egypt with the Jewish masses. Less obvious is Tisha b’Av. But if the destruction of our two Temples and the subsequent Jewish communal disasters are to be properly commemorated, we must somehow transform our feelings into a personal loss. Each oppression, each murder, each disgrace must feel like it happened to our family just yesterday.

This kind of empathy is central to Jewish consciousness. As a community, what happens to each and every one of us ultimately affects us all. We are a living people with an acute memory enforced by the commandment to remember.

Generations (2010) – oil on canvas (44”x 58”) by Brian Shapiro Courtesy the artist

Generations (2010) – oil on canvas (44”x 58”) by Brian Shapiro. Courtesy the artist

Brian Shapiro’s painting, Generations, is an ambitious attempt at placing his personal contemporary life within this vast canvas of memory. His painting chronologically “begins” with the Binding of Isaac and ends with the artist today, all on one 44” x 58” canvas. This kind of pictorial program spanning 3800 years in one visual field is unheard of in Western art. The closest example of Jewish art that approximates this span can be found in the 14th century illuminated Spanish haggadot that feature many pages of images starting with creation and ending with contemporary medieval genre scenes of Passover preparation. These medieval images span a vast history that is singularly impersonal and totally based on Torah narratives and commandments.

Shapiro begins with the present in the lower right corner, his family and friends learning Torah, Talmud and, for the youngest, the aleph-beis. This strata of the painting is thematically and pictorially linked with the good Jewish life in America. There are small hints of struggle with a demonstration for trade unions, but overwhelming the images are positive; filmmaking, musicians and push-carts with bagels and fish on ice. Immediately behind them and yet pictorially in the same space is contemporary Israel – land of the Western Wall, agriculture and hora dancers.

As we move up the painting the tone changes dramatically. The scenes become monochromatically dark with blue, black and white dominating. Countless masses of Jews disembark from the trains to barracks in the concentration camps. A brutal forced march transitions to the grim reality of a snowy night in the shtetl, a place of faith amidst darkness. In the fiery upper section an entire town of synagogues goes up in flames. This is but a prelude to a violent ancient history: the Temple is destroyed, the Golden Calf is worshiped, Joseph is thrown into the pit by his brothers and Isaac is tied up and ready to be slaughtered. Surmounting the entire spectacle Moses climbs up the mountain to talk to God. In a rather curious way the artist seems to link the top and bottom of the painting. In America the artist and his family seek out God in Torah study while at the top of the painting, at the beginning of Jewish history, Moses too seeks to know God’s will and commandments.

Joseph and Brothers Study(2010)  by Brian Shapiro Courtesy the artist

Joseph and Brothers Study (2010) by Brian Shapiro
Courtesy the artist

In three preparatory studies Shapiro reveals himself as a highly accomplished draftsman and narrative artist. While the Binding of Isaac and Moses Climbing the Mountain are certainly impressive, Joseph’s Brothers is spectacular. The jumble of furious brothers are expertly composed in groups of three. The sinister figure in white holding the ill-fated multi-colored coat and guiltily looking off to the left begins another set of three white garments culminating with the white shorts of Joseph, upside down and about to plunge into the pit. The intensity of brotherly hate and violence has seldom been captured so convincingly.

Brian Shapiro is at home in this world, the world of the down-to-earth. He is a consummate Jewish genre painter, comfortable with seemingly every aspect of recent contemporary life. His long career includes countless oil paintings of Hudson River landscapes, New York cityscapes as well as many commissioned single and group portraits.

Additionally he has an unprecedented series of paintings depicting behind the scenes movie making in Hollywood that earned him exhibitions in the Smithsonian Institution in Los Angeles and a first ever show at the Motion Picture Academy.

His series of Jerusalem cityscapes include many highly detailed views of bar mitzvahs at the Kotel (many commissioned by individual families), views all around the Temple Mount and atmospheric old alleys and streets of Jerusalem.

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 “Generations”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Bayit Yehudi Party Celebration
Coalition Last Minute Talks: Likud Capitulates, Bayit Yehudi Wins Justice + 2 Security Cabinet Votes
Latest Sections Stories

A leader that has lost faith in his people cannot lead his people and conquer the land of Israel.

Baseball-logo-NEW

The New York Giants’ Jewish catcher thrilled Giants fans by hitting for the cycle.

Ganz-View-From-Window-logo

Eretz Yisrael is Eretz HaChayim – the Land of Life.

After camping out in tents for a year, the Maoz family needed some time out.

Cauliflower is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with – it blends so easily into whatever dish I am preparing.

For all their deliciousness, frozen beverages do not stand the test of time well, as any ice or frozen fruit thickening your drink will melt into a watery mess.

“DouxMatok’s technology will allow for a reduction of 30-60 percent of sugar in a product, depending on the application, and with no effect on taste.”

How do we ensure that our students aren’t studying for the grade or the end-of-the-year pizza party? How can we get them to truly want to learn for learning’s sake?

The message being conveyed is that without “flour,” without the means to support oneself and one’s family, one’s focus on Torah will be impeded by worry.

Someone close to us knew that you were good at saving marriages and begged us to give therapy one last chance,

Rabbi Pinni Dunner and Holocaust survivor Heddy Orden.

He wrote a strong defense of shechitah in which he maintained that the Jewish method of slaughter had a humanitarian influence on the Jewish people.

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be the keynote speaker at the Westchester Government Relations Legislative Breakfast on Friday, May 8, at 7:45 am at the Jewish Community Center of Harrison.  The annual event, which brings together important elected officials and the Westchester Jewish community, is sponsored jointly by UJA-Federation of New York […]

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/generations/2010/08/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: