web analytics
November 29, 2014 / 7 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 »

Flying To The Moon: Michael Gleizer’s Paintings At The Chassidic Art Institute

Exhibition by Michael Gleizer
Through January 15, 2009
The Chassidic Art Institute
375 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, New York
 (718) 774-9149

 

Michael Gleizer’s work is unfortunately all too easy to pigeonhole. You are not likely to ever encounter it in the Whitney Biennial, and you had better not expect to see it selling for hundreds of millions alongside Damien Hirst’s works at auction. But just because Gleizer’s paintings present a nostalgic look at the simple, sad, and beautiful life of the shtetl rather than postmodern meditations on paralysis and alienation that blink and incorporate bizarre materials, does not mean that they are not important. In fact, they make a lot of sense at the Chassidic Art Institute in Crown Heights − itself an institution that is unfairly dismissed by too many in the so-called art establishment.


First, an anecdote is in order. Several years ago, when I was a literature student at Yeshiva University, I co-taught with a wonderful Argentinean artist Dina Bursztyn in a program called, “Seeing in Living Color. SILC,” a product of the Yeshiva University Museum’s education department. We taught bilingual students at PS 173 to enrich their language skills through drawing, painting, mask making, sculpture, basic printmaking, and clay work. There was also a gallery-viewing component, in which Dina and I showed works from YUM’s collection to the students and encouraged them to discuss the works.


One piece that especially held our students’ attention was a large eight-foot square work (split into nine equal-sized canvases) with lots of primary colors and transparent washes, which depicted a circus populated by Chassidim. Characters that could have been lifted from Sholom Aleichem arranged human pyramids, carried benches on their heads, walked a tight rope carrying water pails and umbrellas, and rode unicycles and horse-drawn wagons.


Though I remember the painting well, I had forgotten who painted it until I saw a very similar piece called “The Arena” (1991) in a 1993 catalog of Gleizer’s work by Zev Markowitz, director of the Chassidic Art Institute (CHAI). It turns out that the painting I remembered from YUM was called “Circus” (1991), and both were part of a larger series called “Levitation.” The body of works that Gleizer is currently showing at CHAI is quite different from the 1991 pieces, but the levitation theme remains. Of the 19 pieces in the show, 18 are 16-inches squared, styled works dated 2005 that show figures floating through the air with titles like “Learning,” “Sabbath,” “Farbrengen,” “Wedding,” and “Hachnoses Sefer Torah.” The 19th painting is titled “770″ (1997, 48 inches squared) and represents congregants praying with a Torah in far bolder color than the other works in the show.

 

 


“Hanukah.” 2005. Michael Gleizer: Oil on board. 16 x 16. Photo: Richard McBee

 

“Hanukah” (2005) is a timely inclusion in the show. In the painting, a man in a black hat and a coat and a young boy light candles in front of a large window. But this is anything but a conventional portrait of Jews lighting candles. The man and the boy seem to stand on firm ground (the viewer can just make out their shadows suggesting a light source from above), but the little bit of floor, the figures, and the window float through the air − which is presented as a mixture of soft blues, greens, purples, yellows, and grays. Specks of white paint suggest stars, and in the bottom left corner of the painting, Gleizer represents a village with about 10 houses. The same white specks that represent stars above become lights in the windows of the houses (perhaps also candles lit for Hanukah), linking the light of the holiday with the celestial bodies.

 

 


“Night.” 2005. Michael Gleizer: Oil on board. 16 x 16. Photo: Richard McBee

 

“Night” (2005) also shows a floating man, this time a milkman pulling a wagon with his wares. The man, having put down his wagon to rest, stands with his hands on his hips as he floats in the middle of the painting, sandwiched between a village in the bottom left corner and another one in the top right corner. Like “Hanukah,” Gleizer populates the sky with cool colors and with stars and lights in the house windows. The man looks upwards at the higher village − perhaps in prayer.


In their suspension of the laws of gravity, “Hanukah” and “Night” − and indeed most of the works in the show − raise important questions. Are the figures floating simply for stylistic reasons of calling attention to themselves, or are they conversing with the divine? Are they caught between heaven and earth with the potential to rise or fall depending on their deeds, or does Gleizer mean to romanticize the shtetl and suggest that it exists only in our dreams and collective memory? It is hard not to compare the soaring figures to Chagall’s flying people, though Gleizer addresses the happier sides of shtetl life while Chagall often portrays its nightmares.

 

 


“Tashlich.” 2005. Michael Gleizer: Oil on board. 16 x 16. Photo: Richard McBee

 

Gleizer’s “Tashlich” (2005) slightly breaks the mold. Eight men and two boys stand on one side of a river, while an amorphous crowd stands on the other side, all wearing hats and kapotas and swaying as they recite the prayer of symbolically casting their sins into the water. In “Tashlich,” perhaps due to the importance of nature in the symbolic ritual, Gleizer surrounds the villages with trees, and plants the houses, trees, and figures on terra firma rather than having them suspended in the air.


The work is mostly naturalistic in its perspective, though in the bottom left corner the village is far too small unless the figures are giants. In fact, the entire composition evokes the second day of creation, in which G-d separated the waters. The blue and white domain above is surely sky, but the area that zigzags through the middle of the painting ambiguously plays the roles of water to the praying figures and sky to the small village below. The figures can be said to be semi-suspended, or more exactly, it is impossible to determine whether the hills they stand on are attached to the earth.

 

 


“770.” 1997. Michael Gleizer: Oil on canvas. 48 x 48. Photo: Richard McBee

 

Other works like “770″ (1997) contain clear horizon lines and more straightforward efforts to map out space. But from seeing the body of work on exhibit at CHAI, it is clear that Gleizer is up to something very interesting with his delineation of heavenly and earthly domains. Chassidic texts talk about how performance of good deeds leads to the creation of angels that testify to those mitzvot, and perhaps Gleizer means to show how people can literally become elevated and suspended in the air when they welcome the Shabbat, celebrate a new Torah, dance at a wedding, or bless the new moon. Many of Gleizer’s pieces strongly emphasize the moon, so that even as the viewer is very conscious of how high up the figures have soared, the moon still looms higher yet, which leaves the figures with more and more to aspire to.

 

The 19th-century French painter, political activist, and caricaturist Honoré Daumier published a brilliant lithograph in the February 28, 1844; issue of the periodical Le Charivari called “O Lune! … inspire-moi ce soir quelque petite pensée,” or “O moon! … Inspire me tonight with some thoughts…” (Translation from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art). In the print, Daumier shows a man sitting in his nightgown nervously biting his fingers and he looks up through an open window at the full moon. The work gives the viewer no indication of what plagues the man’s mind, but it is clear that it is more than he can bear.


Gleizer’s figures, conversely, celebrate the moon as a creation of G-d, and see it as an opportunity to praise G-d. Surely the milkmen and the brides and grooms and Chassidim in Gleizer’s works had their own troubles, but Gleizer chooses to show their joy and worship rather than their pains. Some will surely dismiss this vision as uninteresting, sappy genre painting. But when seen in the proper context like the Chassidic Art Institute, it is clear that the Chassidim are so joyful not because pretty colors sell well, but because Gleizer has infused the works with such a clear Jewish identity.

Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, and resides in Washington, D.C.

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.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 “Flying To The Moon: Michael Gleizer’s Paintings At The Chassidic Art Institute”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry .
NYT Ignores US Condemnation of PA Incitement, Prints Info on Ferguson Cop
Latest Sections Stories
West-Coast-logo

Lester Crown, a perennial member of the Forbes 400 list since 1982 and founder of the prestigious Covenant Foundation, took the stage in Washington, D.C. before a room of high-powered dignitaries, philanthropists, and innovators.

Collecting-History-logo

Not as well known, however, is Keller’s involvement with Jewish and Israeli communities.

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

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.

More Articles from Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker

The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”

Weck-051812

It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.

The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?

Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/flying-to-the-moon-michael-gleizers-paintings-at-the-chassidic-art-institute/2008/12/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: