web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 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 »

The Outsider Complex Jewish Folk Artists Of Our Time

Share Button

Remembrance and Ritual: Jewish Folk Artists of Our Time

Andrew Edlin Gallery

529 West 20th Street, 6th Floor, NY, NY 10011.

(212) 206- 9723

edlingallery.com.

Until June 7, 2003.

 

 

The outsider artist has become a fixture of the postmodern age. There are exhibitions, books, symposia and museums documenting artists who create outside the accepted norms of “fine art.” The French artist Jean Dubuffet along with Andre Breton first defined outsider art as Art Brut (Raw Art) in 1945 and collected examples of work they considered “uncooked” by either classical or contemporary cultural influences.

Individuals on the fringes of society, the insane, disturbed or simply eccentrics driven by their unique needs and personalities produced Art Brut. Their eclectic use of unorthodox materials and subjects often led to puzzling and impenetrable images. In 1975, Dubuffet donated his enormous collection to the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. Over the years, the increased exposure of Art Brut and other outsider art has had a definitive influence on mainstream art, nurturing the post-modernist culture of disjunction and dislocation. At the Andrew Edlin Gallery, Remembrance and Ritual: Jewish Folk Artists of our Time presents what may be one of the fundamental forms of outsider art, Jewish Folk Art.

Edlin defines these eight artists: Paul Edlin (his uncle), Aaron Birnbaum, Bernard Goodman, Etta Ehrlich, Paul Graubard, Malcah Zeldis, Rudy Rotter and Albert Hoffman as “outsiders” and rightly so. Traditional folk artists work within an established cultural tradition of craft and folk custom. Each of these artists is outside any recognizable tradition, Jewish or Gentile, creating their artwork frequently in isolation, marching very much to a tune of their own choosing. Here, the unifying distinction is that they are all Jews. Interestingly enough, many of them have decided to create their art using overt Jewish subjects that defines them conclusively as outsiders in the context of mainstream contemporary art.

Rudy Rotter’s (1913-2001) wood relief sculptures in mahogany have a massive strength that reflects the elemental subjects he has chosen: Moses, Adam and Eve, and Isaac Blessing Jacob- Rebecca. Rotter was a Wisconsin dentist and self- taught artist who sculpted in wood until arthritis forced him to retire in his eighties. His works, spanning a 40-year period, are created with a singular vision of Jewish subjects. Shema (1982) conflates two powerful images
to create a contemporary affirmation of Jewish faith. In a stark frontal image, a man in street clothes holds a small sefer Torah aloft. In this position, he simultaneously becomes the central branch of the synagogue menorah behind him and echoes the classic pose of Moses holding up the original two tablets. In this way Moses is seen here as a mid-Western Everyman.

Using a completely different approach, Malcha Zeldis presents Job (1999) as the metaphorical center of the universe. His enormous head surrounded by a blue-white beard halo pleads for understanding. Kneeling in an idyllic green landscape populated by his dead children, flocks of dead sheep and an especially awesome devil with red wings, Job is comforted and counseled by his wife and his erstwhile friends. Nothing is able to console him as he reaches up to a distant G-d. Job is in some ways the quintessential outsider, because he
is neither satisfied by G-d’s answers to his questions nor comforted by friends or spouse. He is the man alone struggling with meaning in a lonely universe.

The artist who effectively steals the show is Albert Hoffman. He is represented by seven mahogany sculptures and three mixed media paintings that distinguish him as a totally original artist capable of a wide range of riveting images. Ten Commandments (1971) is a normative image of Moses holding up the two tablets, one foot poised forward and the other braced to the side. The deep red mahogany combines with the squat forms of the figure to give this forty-one inch figure an fearsome authority, making us uncertain whether Moses is displaying the luchos for us or about to violently cast them down at our feet.

Tabernacle (1974) is a diminutive synagogue environment that alludes to the entranceway into the Second Temple. The scale, imaginative lions and tablets, symbols of the tribes, and massive but detailed woodworking elevate the sculpture into an elegant and transcendent testimony that each and every synagogue is a miniature Holy Temple.

The most mysterious of the works is a painted mahogany relief sculpture, Thirteen Men (1975). A solitary figure stands at the amud, leading the minyan in prayer. The men are arranged on the extreme edges of the panel. Two sifre Torah, rampant lions and menorahs become inadvertent members of this little congregation. Superficially, the sculpture is a simple depiction of a synagogue service while lurking beneath the surface are troubling questions that defy logical answers. What is the meaning of the “Thirteen Men?” Why are the pews empty and the men so distant from the ark and the Torahs? What is really going on here?

Each of these works and many others in this exhibition raise unorthodox questions from Jewish artists who find themselves on the fringes of the art world, not to mention the surrounding non-Jewish society. They have come in from the edges to present us with their unsettling visions. For our own good, we had best pay close attention to this Jewish Outsider Art.

Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to e-mail him with comments at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

Share Button

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.

No Responses to “The Outsider Complex Jewish Folk Artists Of Our Time”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
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 Richard McBee
Crossbow and Black Bird (detail) Cervera Bible, (1300), Fol. 445.                                                           Courtesy Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisbon.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Jo-El/Jore-El (2013) 48” x 60” acrylic on canvas, by Joel Silverstein
Courtesy the artist

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.

The ostensible outsider frequently has the privilege of seeing the exclusive inner sanctum with fresh and unbiased eyes. Artists’ initial encounters with the Talmud are equally blessed.

It is a rare season indeed when two major auction houses show not only resplendent offerings of Judaica, but also multiple examples of highly unusual and rare Jewish-themed fine art. That is indeed the case now both at Sotheby’s December 19th auction and the Bonhams recent December 10th auction.

As I described Gaon in a review in June 2001 (“In Search of Ancestors, Sculpture by Simon Gaon” at Yeshiva University Museum), his Bukharian Jewish roots are deeply embedded on both sides of his family, echoed in his early yeshiva education.

    Latest Poll

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







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/the-outsider-complex-jewish-folk-artists-of-our-time/2003/06/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: