web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 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 »

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

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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.

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
FBI Wanted poster for Osama bin Laden
Pakistan Library Renamed to Honor bin Laden
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 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.

    Latest Poll

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







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

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: