web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » Sections » Arts »

Chava Roth’s Meanings

Share Button

Chava Roth, Paintings

Chassidic Art Institute

375 Kingston Ave.,

Brooklyn, N.Y. 11213;

(718)-774-9149.

Noon-7 p.m.; Sunday – Thursday

Zev Markowitz, director


 

Pleasure and Meaning. In the visual arts they are equally essential. The pleasure of looking at an object, its contours, colors, texture and subsequent visual excitement is fundamental to engaging the viewer. Lacking visual enjoyment and complexity, a painting, drawing or print will quickly lose the interest of the viewers, and they will move on to a more rewarding visual experience. And a rewarding visual experience is the foundation of ascertaining the meaning of a work of visual art. Whatever the meaning, it must unfold slowly, through the pleasure of following complexity of composition, color and surface. If you get it instantly, you are looking at an illustration, simply a superficial visual sign, not a work of art. Chava Roth’s current exhibition of paintings and watercolors at the Chassidic Art Institute offer us both pleasure and meaning in decidedly unexpected ways.


Roth’s primary métier is the painting of Jewish still lifes as we extensively explored in the January 2001 review in these pages. She continues to show these rarified gems of tradition and nostalgia. Centered on the symbols of Jewish scholarship and learning, her compositions have if anything become stronger. “Still Life (Chaiye Adom)” is rooted in an open sefer, its pages frayed in a binding that has long since given up holding anything together. The covers simply form a container for a mass of loose pages, ostensibly perused year in and out. Rising from the spine of the sefer is a silver candlestick with a handle. At the top, the mostly burnt candle is extinguished. To the right, a crumpled, red tefillin bag stands guard over the surrounding books, each well used and worn. The absent scholar’s eyeglasses mark the place in one of the books.



The simplicity of the triangular composition with the candle at the apex creates a deceptively nostalgic image. While we first think this painting evokes timeless Torah values of learning and piety, at second glance something very different emerges. We notice that the picturesque sefer is so tattered that it is practically unusable. Additionally the tefillin bag is suggestively open, as if its prize contents have been carelessly put away, tossed on the littered tabletop. Finally the unlit candle stops us cold. Here in the apogee of the composition, the place where our eye is inextricably led, there is no flame, no light, perhaps no future. Roth’s lush rendering of frayed paper and bindings invites us to the pleasure of uncovering the complexity of her meanings.


Kesuvos,” another Jewish still life, is similarly based on a triangular composition. But here the effect is altogether different. The primacy of learning, expressed by the open Gemara surrounded by other sefarim and two volumes of the Minchas Chinuch, is here made more complex by the intrusion of two distinct mitzvos, tallis and tefillin. The same old-fashioned, red tefillin bag (here mostly closed) is joined by a tallis hastily removed and put on the table, its stark black and white pattern contrasting with the warm tones of the books. The red drawstring of the tefillin bag symbolically embraces the open Gemara, further integrating learning and the performance of mitzvos. Two mysterious scrolls in a blue glass container center the composition that is framed by a dramatic striped drapery swag, swept back to uncover the tableau. The strong central lighting on the objects and the drapery curtain create a theatrical effect, a kind of visual, “Behold!” This pictorial device, frequently seen in eighteenth century still lifes, makes the painting an affirmation of traditional Judaism.


Roth is also showing a number of Jewish genre subjects, all taken from scenes of Jerusalem. Many are of chassidim walking the streets and alleys of Zichron Moshe clad instreimel and tallis. These picturesque images, usually drawn from multiple photographs she has taken and then combined as a visual resource for her paintings, show a consummate interest in the details of everyday life in Jerusalem. One outstanding example is “Four Soldiers.” Two white-stockinged chassidim trudge up a narrow street in the old city parallel to two IDF soldiers on patrol, automatic rifles slung across their backs.


While the message that both military might and religious piety are necessary for the Jewish state is quickly ascertained, the complexity of composition encourages further scrutiny. Two arches, each slightly different, join the pairs. The green khakis contrast just enough with the black and white traditional clothing to maintain separation. In fact the tension-filled contrasts, at first uniting and then separating, emerge as a running leit-motif that animates the image. The soldiers are in sunlight and yet directly under an awning, while the opposite is true of the chassidim, in a well-lit shadow open to the sky above. Even though both pairs are seen from behind, their body language indicates they are equally engrossed in their private worlds, almost oblivious of each other. Together and yet separate they guard the city.


It is perhaps the fresh perspective on Jewish life that animates Roth’s best work, making us reassess the familiar. “Men at the Wall” is easily the most intriguing painting in the show for this very reason. We are initially seduced by the stock image of pious Jews praying at the Western Wall. They are supplicating, pleading, saying Tehillim and confiding to G-d their innermost needs. Emerging from the afternoon shadows the four primary figures, each attired in a long beckesheh and black hat, face the Wall. Above them, the familiar foliage spouts from the crevices in the ancient stones. Superficially, a totally predictable image. But it is in the details, that a much more complex and emotional meaning emerges.


Playing again on contrasts, Roth has set up two opposing movements that express an optimistic understanding of what actually occurs during a visit to the Wall. The men face in, implore into what appears to be unyielding stone, in an ordered assault on Divine distance. In response the Wall blooms, the foliage bursts out, practically erupting in green, yellow and white blossoms showering the pious with symbolic verdant sustenance. A dialogue has been established affirming the faith that G-d indeed answers prayers. Anchoring this visual conversation is the red velvet, covered-bimah in the lower left, at once representing Torah and, its aron-like shape in line with the shadowed wall, death. One third of the image reminds of mortality while the majority is a dialogue that establishes meaning in Jewish lives and gives hope for the future.


Through the pleasure of picture making, Chava Roth forces us to take notice of unexpected meanings and observations that slowly but surely emerge from the everyday. The pleasure of the excursion to the prize of meaning is well worth the trip.


Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com

Share Button

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.

No Responses to “Chava Roth’s Meanings”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Crossbow and Black Bird (detail) Cervera Bible, (1300), Fol. 445.                                                           Courtesy Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisbon.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Jo-El/Jore-El (2013) 48” x 60” acrylic on canvas, by Joel Silverstein
Courtesy the artist

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.

The ostensible outsider frequently has the privilege of seeing the exclusive inner sanctum with fresh and unbiased eyes. Artists’ initial encounters with the Talmud are equally blessed.

It is a rare season indeed when two major auction houses show not only resplendent offerings of Judaica, but also multiple examples of highly unusual and rare Jewish-themed fine art. That is indeed the case now both at Sotheby’s December 19th auction and the Bonhams recent December 10th auction.

As I described Gaon in a review in June 2001 (“In Search of Ancestors, Sculpture by Simon Gaon” at Yeshiva University Museum), his Bukharian Jewish roots are deeply embedded on both sides of his family, echoed in his early yeshiva education.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/chava-roths-meanings/2006/01/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: