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6 Kislev 5778 -
? Thursday, November 23, 2017


Would the Real (And Kosher) Sukkah Installation Please Stand Up?

out half a year ago, my friend Miriam asked if I knew of any artists or architects whose repertoires included sukkahs. My thoughts immediately turned to the gorgeous sukkah my grandfather designed and built every year and to the retractable roof in the dining room at the Bostoner Rebbe's synagogue, Congregation Beth Pinchas. But for the life of me, I couldn't think of any artist who had developed an interesting aesthetic approach to the sukkah, which is the only Jewish experience (save mikvah perhaps) that completely surrounds us.

Sarah’s Trials: A Personal View

God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, Sarah's only child. Our forefather gets up early and obeys, not telling Sarah, his wife of 47 years. According to Rashi (Genesis 23:2) when she finds out that Abraham had taken Isaac as a sacrifice and then had not killed him, the shock is too much for her and she dies. This has always disturbed me. Upon reflection other things about their relationship seemed problematic.

Podwal’s Books

Mark Podwal is a busy, busy man. He has spent the last 38 years making every conceivable kind of art: innumerable paintings, 28 illustrated books written by him and Elie Wiesel, Harold Bloom and Francine Prose, children's books, haggadot, ceramics and graphic works. Dubbed the "Master of the True Line" by author Cynthia Ozick, his pro-Israel cartoons and drawings have been featured on the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times since 1972.

Process, Loss and History

New York has gone through a William Kentridge craze this year. There have been scattered exhibitions in galleries throughout the cities, in addition to lectures and live performances. From the blockbuster Five Themes show at the MoMA, the Metropolitan Opera's production of Kentridge's directed-and-designed multimedia version of Shostakovich's The Nose, the South African artist has been a dominant voice on the New York art scene. For those who missed the incredible MoMA retrospective-or for those who simply wish for another Kentridge fix-a final salvo can be caught at the Jewish Museum's exhibition of part of Kentridge's Nine Drawings for Projection series.

Anything But Your Grandmother’s Candle Sticks: Contemporary Judaica

A tallit with pastel-colored circular candies on the atarah (literally crown, the top, embellished portion of the garment); a hand held golden bulldozer used to collect chametz on Passover; a mezuzah that shows the three letter name of God (shin, daled, yud, the Sustainer) on a computer keyboard above an "Enter" button, where the text of the mezuzah appears (in the typography of a Torah scroll) on the monitor.

Anything But Your Grandmother’s Candle Sticks: Contemporary Judaica

A tallit with pastel-colored circular candies on the atarah (literally crown, the top, embellished portion of the garment); a hand held golden bulldozer used to collect chametz on Passover; a mezuzah that shows the three letter name of God (shin, daled, yud, the Sustainer) on a computer keyboard above an "Enter" button, where the text of the mezuzah appears (in the typography of a Torah scroll) on the monitor.

Generations

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.

How Jewish Is Rembrandt’s ‘Jewish’ Bride?

As I sit to write this article less than a week before my wedding, my mind keeps returning to a particular work, which one must grapple with if one intends to take the history of Jewish art seriously.

How Jewish Is Rembrandt’s ‘Jewish’ Bride?

As I sit to write this article less than a week before my wedding, my mind keeps returning to a particular work, which one must grapple with if one intends to take the history of Jewish art seriously.

A Mohel’s Siddur by Aryeh ben Judah Leib

Imagine you are a mohel and, thank God, business is booming. It's a good living and you even have time to sit and learn in between the jobs that seem to crop up at least once a week. In addition, you do a bit of doctoring and tutoring a few children in heder. You think, "Perhaps I should have a siddur to replace my father's worn-out printed volume that he got from his father and then from his father oh so many years ago. Here I am in Trebitsch who can help me find something...nice. Oh, I know, Aryeh ben Judah Leib. He is getting really famous for making hand written books with beautiful decorations over in Vienna where he has set up shop. He makes his seforim for important people, even those Yidden who serve at the royal Court - just like they used to do maybe two hundred years ago before we had Hebrew printing. Why not, I'm doing well, doing God's work. It's a hiddur mitzvah."

Is Curious George Jewish? Monkeys and Jewish Art

Monkeys and apes are generally symbols of base passion, particularly lust, in Western art. Giovanni Battista Foggini's 17th century bronze sculpture "The Fall of Man" shows not only the serpent dangling from the Tree of Knowledge tempting Adam and Eve, but also a monkey seated behind the tree eating an apple. Foggini may have gotten the idea from Jan Brueghel the Elder, whose 1612 painting "Garden of Eden" features a monkey prominently, or from a c. 1410 "The Garden of Eden" by an unknown artist in Frankfurt. A century earlier, Martin Luther had famously referred to Satan as "God's ape," building upon the then-popular view of monkeys as unintelligent animals that simply mimicked primitive human behavior.

Jewish Community vs. Spinoza: David Ives’ New Jerusalem

"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion," wrote the political philosopher John Stuart Mill in his 1859 treatise On Liberty, "mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

Jewish Community vs. Spinoza: David Ives’ New Jerusalem

"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion," wrote the political philosopher John Stuart Mill in his 1859 treatise On Liberty, "mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

Can a Tenement Fire Be a Microcosm for the Holocaust? Ben Shahn’s Hickman Drawings

Ben Shahn's "Allegory" (1948), which is part of the collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, shows a lion with a fiery mane standing in an abstract red, blue, green and purple landscape. A bright red-orange structure in the bottom left corner might be a burning building. Underneath the lion is a heap of people, probably dead but perhaps sleeping. The sky is also a mixture of fire and smoke and the painting resembles depictions of hell in medieval manuscripts, where eternal punishment is often personified as a menacing and demonic beast. Whatever the allegory Shahn is depicting, one can be sure it is not intended to be a happy setting.

Can a Tenement Fire Be a Microcosm for the Holocaust? Ben Shahn’s Hickman Drawings

Ben Shahn's "Allegory" (1948), which is part of the collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, shows a lion with a fiery mane standing in an abstract red, blue, green and purple landscape. A bright red-orange structure in the bottom left corner might be a burning building. Underneath the lion is a heap of people, probably dead but perhaps sleeping. The sky is also a mixture of fire and smoke and the painting resembles depictions of hell in medieval manuscripts, where eternal punishment is often personified as a menacing and demonic beast. Whatever the allegory Shahn is depicting, one can be sure it is not intended to be a happy setting.

Yiddish Theater Is Alive and Well (at Least in Chicago), But What Does It...

Trying to summarize the plot of "Jacob and Jack," currently in its world premier at Victory Gardens in Chicago, is a bit like, well, trying to understand a Yiddish play if you don't speak Yiddish. The viewer quickly gets the sense that something really interesting is happening in the play's myriad flashbacks - which are simultaneously redundant and singular - but even after skimming the Jacob and Jack script, I'm still having trouble keeping the narrative and chronology straight.

Bloom’s Bittersweet Vision: Paintings by Lloyd Bloom

Upon entering Lloyd Bloom's exhibition at the Chassidic Art Institute one is confronted by the sweet beautiful image of a lamb skipping through the air in a puffy cloud landscape. Right next to it is an image of a goat kid cuddled up in the lap of a young shepherd. Further down the wall we see paintings depicting a young man leining from the Torah, then women lighting Shabbos candles and finally a father and son at the seder table, all candidates to be the most emblematic scene of Jewish life imaginable.

Moses’ Spies in Art

Growing up, I used to enjoy reading S. Weissman's Little Midrash Says (published 1986) and carefully studying Siegmund Forst's illustrations of the weekly Torah portion. At the time, I had no idea how many of Forst's drawings were derived from earlier traditions of biblical illustration (many of them Christian), but I was particularly struck by the moral readability of the narratives. It was always a cinch to figure out who was a good character and who was evil; you could read it on their faces. The heroes were always smiling widely and the villains looked ugly and angry at the world.

Moses’ Spies in Art

Growing up, I used to enjoy reading S. Weissman's Little Midrash Says (published 1986) and carefully studying Siegmund Forst's illustrations of the weekly Torah portion. At the time, I had no idea how many of Forst's drawings were derived from earlier traditions of biblical illustration (many of them Christian), but I was particularly struck by the moral readability of the narratives. It was always a cinch to figure out who was a good character and who was evil; you could read it on their faces. The heroes were always smiling widely and the villains looked ugly and angry at the world.

Howard Lerner’s Universe

Walking into Howard Lerner's studio is like falling headfirst into a Tanach made of sculpture. Right near the door is a 10-foot high Tower of Babel. Partially hidden behind this behemoth is a thoroughly idiosyncratic Vision of Ezekiel. Further along into the somewhat cluttered, but not chaotic, studio is a vista of massive sculptures; The Ark of the Covenant looms ahead while Elijah's Ascension is on the left, just past a 10 foot depiction of Enoch. To be totally honest, it's all a bit frightening.

Toby Cohen’s Hovering Hassidim

One of my favorite characters in all of literature is the senile patriarch Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, of Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, who, before getting tied to a tree for his own protection, decides he would like to capture God in a daguerreotype. Jos?'s ultimately unsuccessful design solution is to jump out from around a corner hoping to catch the deity unawares.

Toby Cohen’s Hovering Hassidim

One of my favorite characters in all of literature is the senile patriarch José Arcadio Buendía, of Gabriel García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, who, before getting tied to a tree for his own protection, decides he would like to capture God in a daguerreotype. José's ultimately unsuccessful design solution is to jump out from around a corner hoping to catch the deity unawares.

Interfaith Medieval Artistic Collaborations Shed Light on Spanish Jewish-Christian Relations

In 1393, two years after the worst pogroms in Spanish history, the Jewish artist Abraham de Salinas accepted a commission to paint a New Testament-themed retablo, a work placed behind a church altar, for the cathedral of San Salvador. Another Jewish artist, the silversmith Bonaf?s Abenxueu (sometimes referred to as Bonaf?s Abenxueu), created the frame for the retablo.

Is There A Jewish Tradition About The Shape Of The Tablets Of The Ten...

Nearly six and a half centuries before McDonald's first introduced its iconic logo designed by Jim Schindler, artists had already invented the double-humped shape. The Flemish painter Michiel van der Borch's 1332 manuscript illustration "Moses receives the Tables of the Law" shows a haloed prophet, his hair twisted into horns, carrying his staff and wearing a red robe as he reaches out to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Hundreds of medieval manuscript illuminations, as well as dozens of paintings by Chagall, feature the same rounded layout.

Are the Jews Good for Andy Warhol?

The joke about "old and tribal" Jews, who are always pathologically wondering if everything is good for the Jews, goes that when they see a new lint filter on the dryer, they want to know if the new mechanism is good for the Jews. So says Josh Kornbluth in his one-man performance "Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?"

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