web analytics
May 28, 2015 / 10 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
"Rolling Stoned", a smoke shop in Tel Aviv, sells smoking and vaporising paraphernalia for medical cannabis and tobacco.
MK and Police Discussing Making Marijuana Legal
Latest Sections Stories
Road sign in Russian and Yiddish greeting visitors on the road just outside Birobidzhan. (photo by Ben G. Frank)

Birobidzhan railway station sign is the world’s only one spelling the town’s name in Yiddish letters

Ayelet Shaked

She’s seen as a poster child for The Jewish Home’s efforts to reach beyond its Orthodox base.

Teens-Twenties-logo

Girls don’t usually learn Gemara. Everyone knows that.

Lewis-052215-Jewish-Soldiers-logo

Mordechai and his men shared a strong mutual loyalty.

“Can I wear tefillin in the bathroom?” That was the question US Private Nuchim Lebensohn wrote to Mike Tress, president of the Agudath Israel Youth Council, in a letter dated November 18, 1942. Lebensohn was not your typical young American GI. Polish by birth, he was forty-three years old and married when he was drafted […]

To what extent is your child displaying defiance?

This therapist kept focusing on how “I could do better,” never on how we could make the marriage work.

Mistrust that has lingered after the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri, has edged the issue forward.

“The observance of a kosher diet is a key tenet of Judaism, and one which no state has the right to deny,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Orthodox Union.

Two weeks of intense learning in the classroom about Israel culminated with Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Students attended sessions with their teachers and learned about history, culture, military power, advocacy, slang, cooking, and more.

The nations of the world left the vessel to sit rotting in the water during one of the coldest winters in decades and with its starving and freezing passengers abandoned.

Rabbi Yisroel Edelman, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, declared, “The Young Israel of Deerfield Beach is looking forward to our partnership with the OU. The impact the OU has brought to Jewish communities throughout the country through its outreach and educational resources is enormous and we anticipate the same for our community in Deerfield Beach as well.”

Our goal here is to offer you recipes that you can make on Yom Tov with ingredients you might just have in the house. Enjoy and chag sameach!

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/multiple-identities-oded-halahmy-and-russian-post-modernists-at-yum/2003/11/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: