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At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘art’

Equus Opportunity

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Now, only months after the artist’s death, is no time to be coy. Moshe Givati’s work is a revelation: dynamic, throbbing with life, pulsating with meaning. The exhibition “Equus Ambiguity – The Emergence of Maturity,” is up for only a few more days but I urge you to hurry to the Jadite Gallery and familiarize yourself with this under-recognized artist.

Givati was born in 1934 in Hadera to Romanian speaking parents months after his father’s death—a traumatic event that his mother never talked to him about and about which he died knowing almost nothing. Although Givati was associated with several Israeli, European and American artistic movements such as New Horizons and its successor, Tazpit, in Israel and associated with Lyrical Abstract painters in France, Givati resisted such categorization and was even hostile to names and labels. To that end, he did not title his works or publicly interpret them, claiming in an interview, “If art lovers find ideas in the paintings, they are experiencing their own discovery. My touch on the canvas is my story.” Promotional material, as well as the exhibition catalogue from his 2006 retrospective in Tel Aviv note Givati’s insecurity and desire for acceptance. I suspect, however, that Givati, a lifetime manic-depressive, craved recognition more than acceptance and by this I mean recognition in the true sense—instead of accolades, Givati wanted people to recognize and validate the journey laid bare on his diptychs.

Givati provided clues. His final exhibit is named for the 1974 play in which a psychotic boy blinds six horses in a work that explores themes of religion, sacrifice and mental illness—themes Givati was intimately acquainted with. He was not, however, that boy. In the second half of the exhibition’s title, Givati claimed a banner, an “emergence” of maturity. A term that often evokes equanimity and serenity, maturity is just as much a meditation on loss. Growing into an identity involves peeling and discarding other identities. Only once you reach maturity do you realize that you cannot be a fireman, a world leader and an artist.

Givati’s career was long and uneven. While at times Givati associated with collectives—he spent many of his early years on a Kibbutz—he never felt fully integrated into collectives, whether an artistic, religious or a nationalistic movement. Givati was both celebrated as an up and coming artist and fell into homelessness. He associated for a time with the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights and even met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe a few times. Givati spent years living outside of Israel, feeling at home nowhere but always with a drive to create, to search, to explore. His was a journey, an odyssey even, and despite reaching maturity, Givati was not able to shake off the pathos of Equus, the torture of ambiguity. Givati was like the man who longs for the security of belonging to a group but is unable to cling to a group to which he feels anything less than complete solidarity for. Givati was a journeyman and, while still at the kibbutz in name, left for long periods of time to travel in Europe—Rome, Toledo and especially Paris. In 1974, Givati moved to New York City, lived in the Chelsea Hotel—famous for its artist residents at the time, and operated a screen-printing workshop.

In the beautifully displayed exhibition, Givati’s history is all but transcribed on the walls. As the title informs, the theme is Equus—based on the 1973 play by Peter Schaffer, and almost every work in the exhibit features horses, usually lightly rendered on a deeply saturated and colored canvas. Givati’s background in screen-printing, for example, is apparent in a delicately rendered textile of the image of a horse, or more precisely, a model of a horse. In the painting, the horse seems more like a mannequin, there to hold a textile of some sort that reads like a Native American blanket. Underneath the blanket is another black and white covering on the horse. It could be a tallit. Or it could be a shroud.

We the viewers, the reviewers, the curators and the collectors are left to sort through the material remains of that process. We are left to draw comparisons between Givati and New York artists, especially Givati’s fellow residents at the Chelsea Hotel of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s: Larry Rivers, whose influence was acknowledged by Givati and other artists who played with the role of narrative in art such as Jean Michel Basquiat, Donald Baechler and even Francis Bacon who used triptychs the way Givati uses diptychs, investigating the fragmentations, the dichotomies of the soul while referencing religious imagery. Givati recalls in his memoirs that when he visited in the early sixties, he “found London inundated with Francis Bacon’s works. Nouvelle figuration had already infiltrated the world of abstract, and later influenced my work as well, which in essence was not lyrical abstract at all, as it was often described.”1  It wouldn’t be the only time that Givati borrowed imagery from a religion that was not his own.

Neytz HaChochma’s Unique Summer Camp

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Children look forward to summer camp and Camp Neytz is a favorite with many who return year after year.

International food festivals each week, award-winning ceramic art creations, visits by a baby alligator, a giant toad and a talking parrot, and edible art creations each week are only part of the activities at Camp Neytz.

Kids all over North Miami Beach are envious of the camp’s monster water slide. Parents like knowing all meals and snacks are under strict kosher supervision. Field trips, sports and computer games are also part of the fun-filled summer at Camp Neytz.

The Neytz haChochma summer camp runs for six weeks, starting July 2. Camp Neytz is funded by The Children’s Trust, a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County. There are 50 funded slots available on a first come, first served basis and they are filling fast. There is a minimal co-pay. Camp finishes on August 10th.

Neytz haChochma, a 12-year-old nonprofit Orthodox Jewish organization for Exceptional Student Education (ESE), operates a day school with a gifted cohort, an out-of-school program and the summer camp.

Applications are available for summer camp online at www.aaceschool.org, and may be submitted online or printed out and sent by mail.

My Jewish Art Criticism Dénouement

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum in November 2003. I was a junior at Yeshiva College, and I was covering the conference, which was sponsored by the Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions (ATID), for the Yeshiva University Commentator, where I edited the arts section. When one of the speakers (who happens to be a prominent rabbi) 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.

Next thing I knew, I was meeting Richard McBee, and he was giving a young kid the biggest break he’d ever received. I’ve come to value Richard so much as a friend—and co-writing this column with him for nearly eight-and-a-half years has felt so like a chavrutah—that I sometimes forget how much of a mentor and teacher he has been to me.

Starting in December 2003, Richard took me on as a guest columnist once a month (my first title? “Kneidlach And Machine Guns: G.I. Joseph” on an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park). I took over the column on a weekly basis for some time, and then, happily, Richard came back and we have alternated weeks for years now. I’ve often wondered how you, the readers, have tolerated such differences in perspective and art historical insight between Richard and I; Richard is far wiser and more articulate, and the amount of time he puts into thinking each review through from every angle is staggering. But now I need to wonder no longer, as this will be my final column in these pages.

It’s bittersweet to announce that and to say goodbye, particularly as I grew up reading The Jewish Press (my dad, a lifelong Jewish educator and school administrator, is a longtime subscriber). I used to pore over the Golem comic strip and the wonderful chess column on Shabbat afternoons, and I’m proud to report that I even figured some of the chess puzzles out. But all good things must come to an end, even if I had started thinking forward to and planning for my bar mitzvah as a Jewish Press columnist.

I hope, and know, you will continue to read Richard’s work in these pages, and I know I will do the same. It’s rare to find a forum where either faith or art is taken completely seriously, let alone a venue where the intersection of the two is examined in a manner that treats both pieces with maturity and critically. From working alongside Richard, from reading Richard’s columns, and by having to carve out regular time to ask myself difficult questions about Jewish art, I learned of an entire new world—one which, sadly, is foreign to most people.

I wanted to publicly express my sincerest gratitude to Naomi Klass Mauer, associate publisher of The Jewish Press; Sheila Abrams, my former editor of several years; and Chumi Friedman, my current editor, for bringing me on as surely one of the youngest regular columnists the newspaper has ever had. Thank you to three of them for wrestling with my immature prose while I cut my teeth in my first paid gig as an undergraduate student. I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been magical to get a regular paycheck in a role whose only job description is to learn something new every article.

As I think back on the hundreds of stories I’ve covered in these pages over the years, several stand out in my mind. Early on, I covered an exhibit of Edward Hopper’s work I saw in London and compared Hopper’s (what I called gentile) view of loneliness and longing with the “Jewish” sentiment of Amedeo Modigliani, whose works were then at The Jewish Museum. And on a totally different front, I got to cover two of the books that remain among my favorites in the same column: Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism by J.H. Chajes and Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art by Deborah Higgs Strickland.

I can still remember R. B. Kitaj’s work, which was on exhibit in How to Reach 72 in Jewish Art in 2005 at Marlborough Gallery, as well as the hauntingly beautiful play, “The Puppetmaster of Lodz” by Gilles Segal. But if I am forced to choose one of my pieces a favorite—which is surely like selecting a favorite child—I have to say it was also one of my saddest pieces. In high school, I came across the bitingly witty yet masterfully drawn caricatures of David Levine. I copied hundreds and hundreds of them with my Rapidograph pens and my nose inches from the paper.

New Yoga Course Has Jewish Women Striking Kosher Pose

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Women who seek the opportunity to do Asanas in an environment which is more Hoshannah than Ganesha – and teach other women to do the same – can now sign up for a special course designed especially for Jewish Yoga aficionadas who want to teach the healing art to others.

The Kinneret Yoga school, founded by yoga instructor and Master’s degree holder in Dance Movement Therapy Kinneret Dubowitz-Feuer, is specifically designed to enable Jewish women to incorporate the healing, strengthening, and meditative aspects of Yoga into their lives without the traditional influences of Hinduism or Buddhism which many – religious and non-religious – find inappropriate for them.

Kinneret Yoga’s Yoga Alliance certified teachers’ training programs in Israel, New York, Toronto, and Montreal, are powered by Kinneret and her partner Sarede Switzer – her very first trainee – to impart the knowledge which will certify “kosher” yoga teachers throughout the world, so that yoga will become accessible to all Jewish women.

“Jewish women do not have to join an Eastern-based spiritual yoga world, but rather they can connect to its health benefits and nurture their spirituality from a Torah perspective,” Kinneret told The Jewish Press.  “We have women on the program who are orthodox but also not orthodox… women from across the spectrum.”

In an interview with South African Jewish Association of Canada (SAJAC) Tracy Seider, Kinneret explained that her special brand of yoga “has an aspect of mind-body unity, which we are supposed to bring into everything we do as a Jew”, yet is in no way intended to be a substitute for the Jewish lifestyle set out in the Torah.  “You cannot replace mitzvot with just a feeling of spirituality,” Kinneret said.  “Practicing a yoga pose, feeling a connection to your soul and therefore to your Creator, and getting enlightened by that – something one can certainly experience through yoga – is not a replacement for mitzvot.”

Kinneret and Sarede’s special take on yoga has even attracted women of other faiths who look to infuse the unique art with their own brand of spirituality.  “I even had a religious muslim woman contact me in Toronto to see if she could join the program because in her community there is no such program for women,” Kinneret said.  “We have a coffee date next week to talk about what it means to be religious women who love yoga but want to stay within our own religious observance.”

A series of courses on becoming a “kosher” yoga instructor are beginning in several locations.  In July, spots are still open for the Jerusalem course, with another course being offered in Toronto in August, and one in New York in December.

Those interested in taking part in the courses can visit the website www.kinneretyoga.com for more information, or visit the KinneretYoga group on Facebook.

Women in the New York area who are interested in learning about “kosher” yoga, can visit Sarede’s fitness center, Crown Heights Yoga & Fitness, with 12 weekly courses in yoga, pilates, Zumba, and toning.

Mediterranean Blues

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Young IDF soldier playing saxophone on the Tel Aviv boardwalk near Jaffa, May 3, 2012.

“The port area is a mixed suburb of buildings, interlaced by small streets, the main one of square cobblestones. Scores of shops, pubs, art and exhibition galleries, entertainment centers and restaurants – from Eastern European to Ethiopian, from kosher to crabs, from spaghetti bolognaise to bourekas – have gone up not far from the garages and large stores.  The nearer you get to the boardwalk and the sea, the more places you find to eat and drink.”

Mike Porter, Tel Aviv Boardwalk, Ezra Magazine

 

Edouard Vuillard, 1890-1940, at the Jewish Museum

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

“Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940″ has opened at the New York Jewish Museum and will run through September 23.

The exhibition offers a fresh view of the French artist Edouard Vuillard’s career, from the vanguard 1890s to the urbane domesticity of the lesser-known late portraits. The presentation focuses on the inspiration provided by friends and patrons whose support became inseparable from the artist’s achievement. Featuring some fifty key artworks in various media, the exhibition extends pioneering past projects of The Jewish Museum, New York, on the significance of collectors and patrons for the development of modern art.

The youngest of three children, Edouard Vuillard was born on November 11, 1868, in the town of Cuiseaux in eastern France. After the family moved to Paris Vuillard attended the prestigious Lycée Condorcet.

In 1891 Vuillard met the three Natanson brothers, Thadée, Alfred, and Alexandre, who had founded the progressive arts magazine La Revue Blanche. Thadée was in charge of art criticism and invited Vuillard to show work in the magazine’s offices that fall—his first one-person exhibition. Over the next several years the Natansons and their circle commissioned important works from Vuillard. Thadée’s wife, Misia, became Vuillard’s particular muse and appears in numerous works of the period.

After the turn of the century, the Revue Blanche ceased publication and the Natanson milieu began to fragment. Vuillard found a new supporter in the art dealer Jos Hessel, who began representing him and many of the Nabi painters after 1900.

After the end of World War I, Vuillard was a much sought-after portraitist; portraiture became the centerpiece of his life’s work between the wars. Chief among his subjects was Lucy Hessel, whom he painted innumerable times. With the German invasion of France, Vuillard fled Paris with the Hessels. He died in La Baule, Brittany, in June 1940.

Technologically Speaking

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I watch in wonder as four teenagers grab chairs around a table at a local café. They seem to be friends, or at least fond acquaintances, all joining together for a ten-day Birthright tour of Israel. I watch these boys from a balcony above, and I observe that immediately upon sitting down, three of the four boys at the table proceed to reach for their laptops. The fourth boy didn’t seem to have one with him and attached himself to his friend’s laptop. They immediately logged into their Facebook accounts and spent the remainder of their meal connecting to friends in their respective countries. I found out later that this was their first night in Israel, so they must have been telling their friends about their trip since arrival. I would have been okay with this had this activity lasted ten maybe fifteen minutes, but it lasted the entire time these boys sat at the café together.

At the next table sat a couple who appeared to be dating or even possibly engaged. The girl spent her entire time at the table looking at her Blackberry and oblivious to the gentleman sitting across from her. Nothing this poor man could say or do could sway her attention even one iota from her much more enticing technological device. For a while during the dinner, he too took out his Blackberry and did some texting of his own. It would have been nice had they been texting each other. Unfortunately, it is far more likely they were sitting directly across from each other, yet completely absorbed in their own world, texting other people. They finished their meal, paid the bill, left the table, and walked out of the café without her looking up once. I was amazed to see how she did this without tripping down the stairs on the way out.

Two completely different groups of people at a popular Israeli café, yet both demonstrated something in common. People have abandoned the art of face-to-face communication in favor of the presumably more exciting art of communicating over devices. It is sad to consider that if we keep going in this direction, the art of face-to face communication could become completely lost on the next generation. People will simply forget how to carry on a normal and basic conversation – for lack of practice.

Some of the older couples at the café still appeared to be communicating with each other, but for the younger crowd, many of them may not even have noticed if half of their dinner mates got up and left the table. I fear the loss of face-to-face communication skills, as there is almost nothing as healing and cathartic as a face-to-face discussion with a friend. A friend who physically shows you compassion and empathy through his/her facial expressions, eye contact and gestures, and provides important guidance and advice if need be. A friend who hears you out, so you come away feeling heard. This feeling deepens connection between people.

The act of sitting across from someone and sharing thoughts, ideas, and experiences about life is nourishment for the soul – yet it may just be gone in a few decades. In fact, museums in fifty to one hundred years may have a “human communication exhibit” in which they show how human communication has progressed throughout the ages. The centuries up to and including the twentieth century will be called, “The Era of Face-to-Face Communication.” The twenty first century will be dubbed, “The Era of Electronic Communication,” whereby people primarily communicate via computers, cell phones and the like. How sad will it be for future generations who, at the rate we are going, will likely lose the fine art of non-electronic communication. How will people do basic tasks such as interviewing, meeting in-laws for the first time, returning an item to a department store, or sitting at a table of strangers at a wedding? Maybe they won’t. Maybe all of these interactions will be converted to electronic ones and everything will happen through a device. Maybe you won’t need to have that first awkward meeting with your in-laws because you’ll just type a few friendly greetings on your iPad and attach a photo of yourself; Telemedicine, or the practice of having your medical exams done via a computer to a doctor who is many miles away, will replace traditional medicine, and interviewing for a job will be done via a video hook-up without you ever having to leave the confines of your home.

Living in America in 2012, this all still sounds a bit far-fetched. But maybe one day this will be a reality. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not belittling technological advancement. I know we all benefit tremendously from these advances in every area of our lives – from medicine to education to the day-to-day running of our homes. But if social networks are supposed to connect people, why are people feeling more alienated and lonely than ever before? In midst of all the electronic communicating we are engaged in, many of us come away dissatisfied and discontented. We crave the basic eye contact we once enjoyed with our good friends, the upturn of a smile, the warm embrace, the shoulder to cry on when things got tough, and the high-five or tender hug of congratulations when the news was good.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/technologically-speaking/2012/05/04/

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