Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
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 email@example.com
About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Leah Katz, a TeenZone camper at Oorah’s TheZone summer camp and an 11th grader at Midwood High School, read her winning essay about how TheZone changed her views on Judaism at the Jewish Heritage Awards Ceremony held at Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office in April. The purpose of the Jewish Heritage Essay Contest is to acquaint public school students with Jewish history and customs and to help foster a deeper understanding of Jewish culture. The contest is open to students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Leah’s essay is reproduced in full below.
Moshe Sharett, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, visited Egypt in 1945. In Cairo he met a most remarkable young woman, a beautiful journalist who was the darling of Egyptian high society – from high-ranking military brass, to culture icons and Muslim sheikhs, to the court of King Faruk.
The two proceeded to talk about everyday things and surprisingly her mother-in-law did not find anything else to criticize. This occurred a few more times, with my client changing the topic every time by complimenting her mother-in-law or mentioning something positive about her.
There is always a lot of confusion surrounding sensory processing disorder – mainly because there are many different diagnoses that fall under the catch-all phrase sensory processing disorder (SPD). Among them are three specific subcategories:
The doctor had warned us that even if we did everything right and followed the protocol after the follicle was of the right size, there was no guarantee of success. Fertilization still had to occur, and just like couples do not necessarily become pregnant every month, we had no way to know if we were actually expecting for two full weeks.
The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Jewish Press columnist Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, founder and president of Hineni, the international Torah outreach organization, recently addressed an overflowing audience at the Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine in southern California. Rebbetzin Jungreis’s address theme, “Making a Good Relationship Magical,” was apropos for the evening’s main mission: raising funds for the Irvine community’s mikveh.
You have probably been planning your marriage since you were about three. Let’s fast-forward to a big milestone– your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. (Don’t worry, you don’t look a day over twenty one!) Now, would you appreciate your husband buying you a dozen roses that some florist recommended?
As I mentioned in my earlier articles about our family trip to Israel, our night flight went pretty smooth, thanks to my children’s willingness to sleep throughout the flight. I, on the other hand, didn’t sleep a wink and I wasn’t feeling too great by the time we landed. But we were finally in Israel, and just being in the beautifully renovated Ben Gurion airport and hearing all the Hebrew around us was exciting enough.
While all the flowers that grace your Shavuos table will surely be a delight to your eye, these will be a delight for your palette as well. Create them at any level, simple or sophisticated; any way you make them they’re sure to be a sensation.
In the eyes of the ram lies the artist’s commentary on the Rosh Hashanah piyyut “The King Girded with Strength.” From the Tripartite Mahzor (German 14th century), this illumination simultaneously echoes the piyyut’s praise of God’s awesome power and expresses the terror of actually being a sacrifice to God. The ram is but a reflection of Isaac. It is all in the eyes.
Reaching back in time to reclaim a family for herself and, in a yahrzeit moment, to rekindle lives snuffed out, Diana Kurz’s paintings stand as testaments to victims of the Holocaust. After a successful 20 year career as an artist and teacher, (with a strong feminist bent), in 1989 Kurz happened upon a few surviving photos of her own relatives “who disappeared during the war.” Suddenly her past opened up and possessed her. This spring (April 4 – May 2, 2012) a series of these paintings was shown at the Art Gallery at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY.
Examining a choice selection of drawings done by Itshak Holtz over 30 years ago is a rare pleasure that allows for the appreciation of his unique sensitivity and insights. I was afforded that pleasure at the inaugural exhibition of the Betzalel Gallery in Crown Heights this past May. Although this modest selection of 25 drawings and watercolors of this paradigmatic frum artist ranges from 1963 to 1999, the majority of the works is from the 1970s and reveals a special aspect of his inner artistic soul. The selection of images could easily narrate the fabric of ordinary Jewish life.
Earlier this year I was presenting my survey of Jewish art, “A Jewish Art Primer,” in a West Hartford, Connecticut synagogue and during the intermission a local artist, David Holzman, introduced himself to me. He relayed his rich and fascinating artistic background and then produced a portfolio of 8 black and white prints that he generously gave to me as a gift. As a tantalizing glimpse into recent work, they are truly amazing and I would like to share them with you.
Boris Schatz (1866 – 1932) had a revolutionary vision. He believed that the creation of a new modern Jewish visual culture would become a major force to both articulate a Jewish national identity and sustain the Zionist enterprise. In 1904 he approached Zionist leader Theodor Herzl with the proposal to establish a national arts and crafts school in Palestine and got his blessing. Tragically Herzl died later that year, but the Zionist leadership in Vienna assumed responsibility for the project and its funding.
The exhibitions that precede Judaic auctions are rather special events for anyone who has a feeling for the fabric of Jewish life as it has been lived for the last 500 years. Not only is one afforded the opportunity to see a wide variety of Judaica, books, manuscripts and Jewish art of considerable historic importance, but if something strikes your fancy; intellectually or acquisitively, you can actually handle the objects. For most artwork the thrill is in seeing it up close and judging the brushstrokes and details of a painting or watercolor. One stands in the exact proximity as the creator did.
The auction at Christie’s in Paris this May 11 of a Tuscan Mahzor, created and illuminated in the 1490’s, will be an extraordinary event. This rare example of illuminated Jewish art has not been seen publically in over 500 years and, aside from tantalizing internal suggestions, lacks conclusive identification of the scribe and illuminators. Because the gold-tooled goatskin binding was made about 50 years after the manuscript and has a different coat of arms than those found in the machzor, it is assumed that this prayerbook may have quickly changed hands.
One thing is certain about Robert Feinland – he has shuls on his mind. His career has spanned over 40 years, exploring landscape, cityscape, sculpture and abstraction. For many of those years he has focused on the relentlessly changing urban landscape of New York, feeling the necessity to document and, in some way preserve, the physical fabric of the city he loves. A selection of recent paintings, most concentrating on the Crown Heights community, is currently at the Chassidic Art Institute. Many of the images are of shuls.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/eisenbergs-space/2005/12/28/
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