web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 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 »

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

Machane Yehuda – oil on canvas by Brian Shapiro Courtesy the artist

Machane Yehuda – oil on canvas by Brian Shapiro
Courtesy the artist

In an unexpected way Shapiro’s claustrophobic depiction of the Machane Yehuda market is a tour-de-force of genre painting. He frames the painting with a vegetable merchant on the right contrasted with the spice seller on the left. Through this scaffold flows every kind of customer imaginable, a hasid, an old lady, a beggar and a local Jerusalemite shopping for the day’s groceries. As we are drawn into the middle distance of the market we see a tray of freshly baked breads carried aloft by a burly baker. All the bustle and human activity inherent in the market is summoned forth in this vibrant image, every gesture telling its own familiar story. Even the jackets and pants for sale strung across the top reverberate with the humanity and vibrant atmosphere that characterizes this corner of Jerusalem.

For the past 13 years his work has concentrated increasingly on American Jewish life, from the New York Israel Day Parade to many joyous synagogue interiors depicting the Sabbath and holiday celebrations. Notably his series on 770, the Lubavitcher World Headquarters, has revealed an expressionistic side to Shapiro’s temperament.

Talk – oil on canvas (9”x 10”) by Brian Shapiro. Courtesy the artist

Talk – oil on canvas (9”x 10”) by Brian Shapiro. Courtesy the artist

Talk shows off Shapiro’s compositional skills to lead us to deeper meaning, framing the tallis-clad conversationalists with two men in black. The revealing contrasts between two bearded men in fedoras and the two men in tallis and tefillin allows one to contemplate the multiple paths to prayer open to both married and unmarried men.

On yet another level Phylacteries is a monument to an everyday mitzvah. The majestic triangular shape of the white tallis frames a pensive head crowned by his tefillin shel rosh. As he recites his prayers, eyes closed in concentration, the strength of faith is expressed in his massive arm wrapped in the black straps of his tefillin shel yad. His big beefy arm, constrained and yet strengthened by the mitzvah itself is a dramatic exposition of how Jewish men are bound and wedded to God daily. This is a simple, powerful and direct genre painting that goes to the heart of a central commandment.

Phylacteries – oil on canvas (11”x 8”) by Brian Shapiro. Courtesy the artist

Phylacteries – oil on canvas (11”x 8”) by Brian Shapiro. Courtesy the artist

Shapiro’s concern with Jewish history in the context of his own history is perhaps most movingly elucidated in The Tenth Man. This 6’ by 10’ painting realistically sums up much of recent Jewish history. Set in an imaginary downstairs beis midrash with echoes of his grandparent’s shul in Rochester, New York, the subject is emblematic of the sad reality of many failing communities, waiting for the 10th man to be able to start morning services. The genius of genre painting is that it can narrate its message through the oddest assortment of details, all of which add up to making a coherent vision.

The four men on the left are all facing the same direction following the searching gaze of the rabbi standing in the doorway. Their collective gaze leads the viewer literally out of the painting into the mysteriously black of a star-filled sky. It is as if this little congregation has found itself on the moon with no Jews in sight. Similarly the right side is one of dissonant hopelessness, each man in his own thoughts waiting for the inevitable. The shul is littered with communal disarray; mismatched pews, odd Torah covers and old tallaysim scattered here and there, a shul cat patiently awaiting a bowl of milk and finally the bookcase a jumble of worn-out volumes. The figure on the extreme right sums up the situation, glancing impatiently at his watch it is becoming clear to all that there will be no minyan today.

Genre Painting takes the details of the everyday and, when sensitively applied to subjects that the artist really cares about, can elevate the ordinary into the extraordinary. In the hands of Brian Shapiro ordinary Jewish life finds itself in the realm of the sublime.

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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Ferguson, Missouri: rioting against racism, encouraging murder
The Foul Stench of the Ferguson Fallout
Latest Sections Stories
Rabbi Maurice Lamm

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

Schonfeld-logo1

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.

Recently, Fort Lauderdale has been the focus of international news, and it has not been about the wonderful weather.

Rabbi Sacks held the position of chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years until September 2013.

The event included a dvar Torah by student Pesach Bixon, an overview of courses, information about student life and a student panel that answered frequently asked questions from a student perspective.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

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: