web analytics
August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Sections » Arts »

Multiple Identities – Oded Halahmy And Russian Post-Modernists At YUM

Homelands: Baghdad-Jerusalem-New York: Sculpture of Oded Halahmy.

Yeshiva University Museum - Center for Jewish History,

West 16th Street, New York, N.Y.; (212) 294-8330.
Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.;

$6 adults, $4 children. Until January 15, 2004.

 

Who are you? Who am I? Questions of cultural identity among artists have raged from the
early twentieth century to yesterday’s memoir. Was Marc Chagall a Russian artist, a Jewish artist or a French artist? Crumbling social institutions, societal upheavals, and fluid opportunities in societies adrift from traditional moorings demand that artistic identity be parsed and minutely explored. Two exhibitions currently at Yeshiva University Museum examine this most postmodern of themes.

Oded Halahmy, working in New York’s Soho for the last thirty years, is showing an impressive retrospective of his works reflecting both the modernism he found in New York and his Middle Eastern roots. His identity shines forth as an Iraqi Jew marooned in New York in his retrospective: Homelands: Baghdad-Jerusalem-New York; Sculpture of Oded Halahmy.

Conversely, the twenty-four artists in Remembrance: Russian Post-Modern Nostalgia who have forged artistic lives out of the ruins of the Soviet empire treat identity as a borrowed shirt, an ironic garment within which to lash out at their past and present oppression. Identity for them is less a longed for homeland than a weapon with which to mock and attack multiple enemies, including a grandiose but dead Communism, avaricious capitalism, and artistic orthodoxies of the past hundred years. We will explore this complex exhibition next week.

While Oded Halahmy has at least three homelands: Iraq, Israel and New York, he has one
central artistic identity. Conversation (1996) establishes the framework of his aesthetic and cultural concerns. His whimsical and yet probing sculptures, almost all cast bronze, frequently utilize the powerful symbols of the palm tree and the pomegranate to create a dialogue between contrasting elemental facets of our personalities.

The palm is earthbound and yet continues to aspire to the sky, forever reaching even as it
shelters. It is a symbol of expansive freedom gently swaying in the wind. Frequently situated lower in the sculptural composition, the pomegranate occupies a distinctly different position that evokes our visceral nature. This luscious fruit, filled with seeds of fecundity and potential creativity, represents the earthbound nature of man bound to a life of flesh and blood. Its little crown even implies kingship over the earthly realm. In this sculpture, the dialogue is between the upper and lower aspects of our lives, with steps and ramps forming the base that we can metaphorically ascend.

Homeland (Study) (1987) moves these ideas into the realm of social identity. Halahmy
presents us with a tableau-like freestanding relief sculpture that could be mistaken for a group
portrait. The sculpture simultaneously operates as a series of universal symbols and as a landscape view of his remembered Iraq that he left as a 13-year-old in 1951. The majestic palm, curiously fractured, is flanked by the king and the humble, child like pomegranate. They in turn are framed by a star/sun symbol and an abstract figure on the viewer’s right. The skillful manipulation of size creates a scale and dignity beyond its actual height of only 48 inches.
Halahmy evokes for us a nostalgic view of a Middle Eastern childhood, perhaps representing his own family amidst the ever-present palms and life-giving sun. In the catalogue he writes that, “In my memories of Baghdad, everything is vivid, beautiful; people, friends, relatives, food… it was the most beautiful place on earth, a paradise.” It is a touchingly primitive portrait of a world long gone.

A more mundane realm of power and politics is referenced in Silver Pomegranate Moon
(1983). The sharp angles and rectangles contrast with curved gestures to abstractly describe a king seated in a palace attending to affairs of state while the moon rises above. Incongruously, a pomegranate is placed on its own stand next to his throne. Halahmy tells us that in the process of creating the work, he placed a real pomegranate on the abstract sculpture. The effect was a creative breakthrough.

The fruit is brilliant, reflecting the light differently from the surrounding burnished nickel bronze. It serves to remind the king that he too is but flesh and blood. His exercise of power, even
stern justice that might be seen in the jagged shape of his raised arm, needs to be tempered by
humility and gentleness as expressed by the soft light of the moon.

Halahmy frequently considers his work as playful. While that may be much of the time, still it is
a serious kind of play. His dalliance between abstraction, symbolism and a simple figuration reflects a life that he characterizes as nomadic. Born in Baghdad, Iraq, he grew up in Israel, studied in London, and finally moved to New York in 1971. At one point he states that “my homeland is the place where I am working and living” and yet there are no palm trees in Soho.
His constant use of these symbols reflects a poignant yearning for the lands of his youth, a
cultural identity bound up with the Middle East and the home of his forefathers. An artistic identity is not so easily manufactured from surroundings, even three decades old. Uprooting the artist does not uproot the artist’s authentic identity. Strangely, it may actually make it grow stronger.


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.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 “Multiple Identities – Oded Halahmy And Russian Post-Modernists At YUM”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The three salesmen -Netanyahu, Ya'alon and Gantz
Netanyahu Tries to Sell Bill of Goods that Israel Won Goals in the War
Latest Sections Stories
Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot together in concert.

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

Mordechai-082214-Armoire

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

Einhorn-082214-Water

Stroll through formal gardens, ride mountain bikes, or go rock climbing.

As they fall upon us we go
To the WALL.

One minute you’re shaving shwarma off a pit, then the shwarma guy tells you he read a (fake) WhatsApp that the boys are dead.

I probe a little deeper and Shula takes me into the world of phantom pains and prosthetic limbs.

This went on until she had immersed eighty times, and then Hashem at last took pity upon her.

Because Menachem lives in Israel, he can feel the ruach in the air.

Perhaps you can reach a compromise during this news frenzy, whereby you will feel more comfortable while he can still follow the latest events.

Leon experienced the War of Independence from a soldier’s perspective, while remaining true to his Jewish ideals and beliefs.

Chabad of Arizona centers recently hosted an evening of remembrance to mark the 20th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

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.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/multiple-identities-oded-halahmy-and-russian-post-modernists-at-yum/2003/11/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: