web analytics
November 26, 2014 / 4 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 »

The Jewish Art Enthusiast’s Guide To WNET/Channel Thirteen’s ‘Art Through Time: A Global View’

Art Through Time: A Global View


A 13-part series produced by Thirteen (WNET) for Annenberg Media


Premiered Oct. 10


Jill Peters (exec. producer), Suzanne Rose (series producer), Jennifer Hallam (managing editor, writer producer), and Eva Zelig, Arash Hoda and Gail Levin (producers)



 

 


Jewish art buffs might be disappointed by channel Thirteen’s new 13-part series, Art Through Time: A Global View. It takes two entire episodes (one half an hour each) and part of the third episode for a reference to Jewish art to surface. This comes in the person of Shimon Attie (born in Los Angeles, 1957), whose The Writing on the Wall (1991-3) projected pre-Holocaust photographs onto the walls of buildings in the Jewish quarter of Berlin, the Scheunenviertel. Attie’s projections, which were effectively before-and-after photos of particular buildings, are particularly haunting because they reveal how much the neighborhood has changed. Another work of Attie’s that is discussed in the episode is Portrait of Exile (1995), which involved submerging light boxes with portraits of Danish refugees (who fled to Sweden during the Holocaust) in a canal in Copenhagen.

 

There is nothing wrong with Attie and his work – though it’s not clear that he should be the first representative of Jewish art, as opposed to Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro, Marc Chagall, Max Liebermann, Amedeo Modigliani and a slew of more contemporary artists like Larry Rivers, R.B. Kitaj or Judy Chicago, though photographer Richard Avedon’s work appears (but is not discussed in a Jewish context at all). One might also argue that opening the discussion about Jewish art with works about Holocaust memory could give the wrong impression about the larger genre of Jewish art, which often deals with much happier and affirmative times in Jewish history and experience, as readers of this column are well aware.

 

But what is perhaps most troubling is that there was no room to discuss Jewish art in the first episode (Converging Cultures) or the second (Dreams and Visions), particularly since viewers hear about plenty of Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Latin American, African, Asian and Indonesian Aborigine art in those two episodes.

 

 


Unknown artist, Haggadah, Spain, c. 1300. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary. From Art Through Time: A Global View.

 

 

After Attie, viewers can carry on watching the rest of episode three (History and Memory) – where Attie returns and gets the final word – four (Ceremony and Society, which offers a quick glimpse of a bar mitzvah amidst a larger mosaic of snapshots), and six minutes of five (Cosmology and Belief) before hearing from another Jewish artist, this time Vitaly Komar, of the Russian artist-born duo Komar and Melamid, famous for, amongst other things, teaching elephants in Thailand to paint.

 

Like Attie, Komar is hardly a representative of Jewish art worth complaining about. Komar’s work, which is very edgy, particularly in its politics, often draws upon Jewish (and other faiths’) symbols, as well as Kabbalah. “Art can create [an] image, which has no equivalent in language,” Komar says later on in the episode, which also addresses the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, showcasing the work of Jewish painter Mark Rothko. But Komar and his colleague Alexander Melamid, have a particular political criticism of the Soviet Union in mind, and is not necessarily the best work to choose if only two Jewish artists are going to be discussed in the entire series.

 

 


The Egyptian Book of the Dead from chapter six, Death. Credit:

Unknown artist, Egypt. New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1567 BCE-320 BCE Egyptian Museum, Turin, Italy. © Gianni Dagli Orti/CORBIS, The Picture Desk Limited.

 

 

The next two episodes (Death, Domestic Life) do not address anything Jewish – though to be fair, one cannot address art and death without devoting significant air time to the Egyptian Book of the Dead – but episode eight (Writing) opens with Sharon Lieberman Mintz, curator of Jewish art at the library at the Jewish Theological Seminary, talking about a Haggadah. Mintz says Jewish illuminated manuscripts first emerged in the 9th or 10th century, in part because Jewish artists were excluded from the guilds, which held the secrets of mixing pigments close and literally did not know the trade secrets.

 

Though Jewish art is not discussed again in episodes nine (Portraits), 10 (The Natural World), 11 (The Urban Experience), 12 (Conflict and Resistance) or 13 (The Body) – and indeed seems mostly uninvited to the Art Through Time party – I do not believe that Thirteen or WNET should be criticized for negligence (or avoidance) for several reasons.

 

First, though viewers who do not realize that Jewish art is a stop on the train – and who erroneously think that the Second Commandment has effectively banned art making for Jewish artists for centuries – will not learn a whole lot more about the subject, there is a tremendous opportunity for Jews to learn about art of other faiths and from regions across the globe. One of the buzzwords of the series is “hybridity,” and as Ori Soltes (who would have made a great addition to the series) argues in Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Art Draw from the Same Source, Jewish art must be seen in a larger context. Art Through Time provides that larger context and a sophisticated vocabulary with which to examine it.  

 

Second, the directors clearly decided that anthropologists were going to be at least as much a part of the series as art historians and artists. This is a very good thing, in my opinion. The anthropological approaches to most of the works in the series ensure that the discussion transcends “inside baseball” references to art historical motifs, techniques and movements, and focuses on the cultural motivations that inform (and are simultaneously are shaped by) the works.

 

 

 


Art Through Time: A Global View. Pictured (clockwise from top left): HYENA, a work by Angelo Filomeno, featured in Death (episode 6); PINK AND BLUE CAR, a work by Sandy Skoglund, featured in Dreams and Visions (episode 2); detail of tapestry depicting Hindu god, Yama, featured in Cosmology and Belief (episode 5); detail of rug featured in Converging Cultures (episode 1).

 

 

This series is not only accessible to non-experts (which is why I haven’t picked it apart too much; I encourage readers to watch it for themselves, perhaps with this article as a guide), but it succeeds in teaching a lot about art and art history, despite its relatively short span of six and a half hours. Some of the sequences seem overly ambitious (like explaining Impressionism while standing on one foot), but the series is more an Art Through Time 101 survey than an in-depth seminar.

 

It would be interesting to see what the anthropologists would say about how Judaism and Jewish art are portrayed in the series, but I suspect it would be much more prudent to sincerely applaud Art Through Time for all of its successes, rather than dwelling on what is not there. There just might be a need to create a new series on Jewish art specifically.

 


            Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

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 “The Jewish Art Enthusiast’s Guide To WNET/Channel Thirteen’s ‘Art Through Time: A Global View’”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Ferguson, Missouri: rioting against racism, encouraging murder
The Foul Stench of the Ferguson Fallout
Latest Sections Stories
Rabbi Maurice Lamm

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

Schonfeld-logo1

This core idea of memory is very difficult to fully comprehend; however, it is essential.

Respler-112114

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.

Recently, Fort Lauderdale has been the focus of international news, and it has not been about the wonderful weather.

Rabbi Sacks held the position of chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years until September 2013.

The event included a dvar Torah by student Pesach Bixon, an overview of courses, information about student life and a student panel that answered frequently asked questions from a student perspective.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

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/the-jewish-art-enthusiasts-guide-to-wnetchannel-thirteens-art-through-time-a-global-view-2/2010/10/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: