web analytics
October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » Sections » Arts »

Eisenberg’s Space

Raphael Eisenberg

Chassidic Art Institute

375 Kingston Avenue,

Brooklyn, New York 11213;

(718) 774-9149

Noon – 7 p.m.; Sunday-Thursday:

Zev Markowitz, director


 

Space is created in the visual arts in a multitude of ways. Illusionistic space was invented in the Renaissance and continues to be depicted in contemporary realism. This method creates the impression of looking through a window and seeing an ordered progression of objects, those closest the largest and diminishing in size as distance increases, all converging on one or more points on the horizon. A unified system of perspective is imposed on all visual experience. Atmospheric perspective is a similar system that substitutes contrasts of light and dark and intensity of colors to create the feeling of depth. Then there is Modernist space of abstract juxtaposition that celebrates the physical surface of the painting, admitting the simple fact that all depictions of space are illusions, since the painting or drawing is, in fact, only two dimensional. Finally, there is a specific kind of Modernist space that does not deny the possibility of illusion, and yet still celebrates the joys of the painting’s surface. It is a space that is simultaneously present and absent, conjured by enthusiastic paint handling and the more than occasional bare canvas. This is Raphael Eisenberg’s space.


In Eisenberg’s portrait of Benzion Miller, a shallow personalized space is depicted. The famous cantor is standing in front of a series of dark verticals that seem to support him and his formal cantor’s hat. We might suppose that this grid is a bookcase of seforim, but Eisenberg gives us no hint of specifics. Rather, the shapes operate as an abstract design contrasted with the volumetric rendering of Benzion’s kittel-clad body, to help create a measured distance between them. The space is created in this painting by these contrasts, and repeats of the red of his hands and a red object behind him, causing the eye to jump between the points, thereby creating depth. The ample use of bare canvas insists that whatever we think we see is actually but a painted illusion.


The current exhibition of Eisenberg’s works at the Chassidic Art Institute (December 25-January 25, 2006) is a casually-defined retrospective of his work over the last 20 years. It ranges from his well known portraits of Boro Park (first exhibited in 2002 at the Brooklyn College Art Gallery), Rebbe paintings, Israeli landscapes, cityscapes and most intriguingly, fish paintings.


Fish have been a favorite subject for artists since Romans immortalized our watery friends in mosaic floor decoration. During the Renaissance there was a hiatus of paintings of fish, but they returned in full splendor in the great still lifes of the 18th century French master, Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin. The 20th century saw the French-Jewish artist Chaim Soutine continue this tradition with expressionistic works of still lifes utilizing fish. One notable painting pays homage to Chardin in his painting of “The Sting Ray.” Most of this genre of still life uses dead fish as a kind of veritas (Latin; truth), commenting on the fragility of life and visceral nature of death. Eisenberg’s fish are firmly in this tradition.


The humorously titled “Bedfellows” is a brilliant case in point; the creation of a resolutely mundane space that still demands our attention to the larger meaning of things, notably the fleeting nature of our existence. His depiction of two kinds of fish seen from above, one a slick green and the other silvery white and gray, sets them in a dialogue with each other, the shallow aerial space giving us an illusion of control. Ostensibly facing each other, they cause us to ponder why the left one’s eyes are glazed over, while the smaller fish on the right with a red gash for a mouth is staring at the viewer; accusation, hostility or simply death? The plot thickens as we are informed by the artist that one is kosher and the other, non-kosher and poisonous. Life is indeed complex.




The same use of space is utilized in “Five on a Plate,” but here with a more vertiginous effect. As opposed to “Bedfellows,” centered, weighted and within the viewer’s control, this depiction balances the plate and its slippery occupants in the upper third of the painting, precariously hanging over the back edge of a table. Even more upsetting is the vast amount of blank canvas below the plate’s immediate proximity, creating the feeling that it could easily slip off and crash to the floor at our feet any moment. Three of the five fish stare open-eyed from the cool confines of death causing a disquieting unease in the otherwise cheerfully colored painting.


This exhibition raises a number of issues with Eisenberg’s paintings. His creation of space is modern, shallow and does not allow us much elbow room, limiting the symbolic freedom of motion found in illusionist space. By his own admission, there is little or no specifically Judaic content in most of these works; in fact, he denies there is any art that could be defined as “Jewish art.” Rather, for him, “painting is a reflection of how an artist perceives the world that is in front of him, not as a camera, but rather as a heart and a brain.” A thoroughly modernist statement, if there ever was one.


Nonetheless the issue of the creation of pictorial space continues to nag at our consciousness. Renaissance space, illusionistic and confident in an ordered universe, with man (and his perceptions) firmly at its center, cannot express fundamental Jewish values that revel in the complexity of Divine and human relationships. But, is it possible that there is a kind of space that is Jewish – meaning that Jewish values and sensibilities are expressed therein? I don’t know, but it seems clear to me that there are some depictions of space that can’t be Jewish. And if that is the case, surely the space Eisenberg creates might fit the bill as apotential Jewish space. Complex, uncertain, nervous and tentative, ultimately expressing the heart and brain of a Jew. After all, if we can’t have a type of art named after us, the least we could have is a little bit of space of our own.


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


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 “Eisenberg’s Space”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas speaking in Ramallah, July 1, 2014.
PA Demands Nov 2016 Deadline for UN to Force Israeli Surrender
Latest Sections Stories
Israeli winery

“You want to know what this wine looked like, which wine King David drank, white or red…. We can see if it’s red or white, strong or weak.”

Mindy-092614-Choc-Roll

I should be pursuing plateaus of pure and holy, but I’m busy delving and developing palatable palates instead.

Schonfeld-logo1

Brown argues that this wholehearted living must extend into our parenting.

If we truly honor the other participants in a conversation, we can support, empathize with, and even celebrate their feelings.

I witnessed the true strength of Am Yisrael during those few days.

She writes intuitively, freely, and only afterwards understands the meaning of what she has written.

“I knew it was a great idea, a win-win situation for everyone,” said Burstein.

Not knowing any better, I assumed that Molly and her mother must be voracious readers.

“I would really love my mother-in-law …if she weren’t my mother-in-law.”

For each weekly reading, Rabbi Grysman begins with a synopsis of the Torah portion, followed by a focus on a major issue.

It’s Rosh Hashanah. A new year. Time for a fresh start. Time for a new slate. Time for change.

Governor Rick Scott visited North Miami Beach/Aventura on the morning of Wednesday, September 17.

While the cost per student is higher than mainstream schools, Metzuyan Academy ESE is a priceless educational opportunity for children with special needs in South Florida.

Challah-pa-looza helped get the community ready and excited about the upcoming Jewish New Year.

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/eisenbergs-space/2005/12/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: