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Posts Tagged ‘art’

NY Jews Lay Mitzvahs on Thick, Break World Record

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Members of the UJA-Federation of New York set a Guinness World Record on April 29 for assembling the greatest number of sandwiches for the needy in one hour.

The mitzvah-slathered soiree took place at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights and involved 100 volunteers from the local Jewish community, 3,320 slices of bread, and gobs of soy butter (to ensure that it would not cause food allergies) and jam.  It was scheduled to coincide with the UJA’s annual Mitzvah Day.

After officially recording the event for its Guinness World Record certification, participants donated the sandwiches  - with cards and decorations affixed – to the Queens Jewish Community Council in Forest Hills and to Long Island’s Interfaith Nutrition Network in Hempstead.

The project was a “frenzy of good will”, according to co-chair of the UJA-Federation Guinness World Record Amy Mandell.

The record-breaking project was just part of greater Mitzvah Day celebrations, which included volunteering for a local kosher food charity, outdoor clean-ups, nursing home visits, a blood drive, and activities for children such as art projects.

President Obama Declares Jewish American Heritage Month

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared May “Jewish American Heritage Month”.

In a ceremony kicking off the month, the president praised Jewish Americans for bearing “hardship and hostility” with the “deep conviction that a better future was within their reach”.

He also noted the achievements and national contribution of Jewish Americans such as Supreme Court Jusice Louis Brandeis, physicist Albert Einstein, and writer and art collector Gertrude Stein.

“Our country is stronger for their contributions, and this month we commemorate the myriad ways they have enriched the American experience,” Obama said.

The first Jewish American Heritage Month occurred during the presidential term of George W. Bush.  It was introduced by Jewish Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- FL) and passed in December 2005.

In Washington DC, events for Jewish American Heritage Month will take place at the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Gallery of Art, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Events will also take place in various locations throughout the United States.

Marc Chagall At TEFAF Maastricht

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) March 16-25, 2012 (25 year anniversary) Maastricht, Netherlands http://www.tefaf.com/

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.

“There is more Chagall than usual this year. I don’t know why, but each year there seems to be one artist who is the main artist of the year. Next year there may be only one or two,” says Anthony Brown, managing director of the London-based gallery Connaught Brown.

Ben Springett, manager and head of sales at Alon Zakaim Fine Art in London, agrees. “There do seem to be more Chagalls this year than perhaps before, although they have always been popular at the fair,” says Springett, whose gallery was participating in the fair for the first time. “Several people have said that the strength of the modern section at the fair has grown over the past few years.”

Marc Chagall. Autour de l'equilibriste. 1975-78. Oil on board. 24 x 16 ins / 60 x 40 cm.

Chagall’s “Les maries aux deux violonistes au cirque,” which was exhibited at the Alon Zakaim Fine Art booth, shows a bride and groom at the circus. The couple is surrounded by fiddlers, what might be a man with a donkey’s head, acrobats with wings, and flower bearers. In the top right corner of the piece, a painter (perhaps a self portrait of Chagall?) stands at an easel with a canvas depicting Jacob’s ladder with an angel climbing heavenward.

The conflation of angels and acrobats is an interesting move on Chagall’s part. At first blush, all of the danger and the excitement of acrobatics is lost if the performers have wings. Michael Jordan’s soaring dunks were so impressive because he is human; if he could suspend himself mid-air indefinitely it wouldn’t be nearly as arresting an image to see him pull off seemingly extra-human moves.

On the other hand, Chagall’s circus of angels—superimposed on Jacob’s dream of the ladder, so that the acrobat’s swing becomes a rung of a ladder—bridges the human and heavenly realms. That is after all what Jacob’s dream is about, and also the impression one gets from watching people flying on high wires as if they are birds.

Chagall brings the circus-Jacob’s ladder comparison full circle by depicting a sleeping (or dead?) figure lying on the ground in the circus ring. The figure, which seems to lie among red, orange, green, and blue petals, could be a dreamer imagining the Jacob’s ladder painting within the imagined circus, or it could be a fallen acrobat-angel. Just as some can soar, some remain earthbound and asleep, Chagall seems to say.

Marc Chagall. L'homme à la chèvre. 1950. Gouache, India ink and pastel on paper. 62.5 x 48.5 cm.

Another Chagall work at Alon Zakaim, “L’homme à la chèvre,” depicts a bearded man carrying a goat. A boy stands beside the man, as a purple village unfolds behind them. The blood-red moon and the red and orange sky almost suggest flames, which appear even warmer when juxtaposed with the cool colors in the foreground. A few figures can be made out in the shtetl in the background, but the most conspicuous character is a bearded man exiting stage left with a cap and a large sack slung over his shoulder.

According to an essay written by the Koller auction house, which previously owned the work, Chagall was influenced in “L’homme” by his childhood in Vitebsk, and “he often painted such dreamscapes as a dialogue with his hometown.” The man, according to the essay, may be Chagall’s uncle Neuch, who was a cattle dealer. “A young Chagall loved to accompany his uncle when he went to buy cattle from the peasants in the region, and once commented, ‘How happy was I when you allowed me to drive with you on the bumpy barrow!’” according to the essay. The young boy in the work, then, may be a self portrait of Chagall.

Marc Chagall. Over Vitebsk. 1915-20. Oil on canvas. 26 3/8 x 36 1/2" (67 x 92.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art.

Yet, the painting is also confusing, the essay continues, because the man’s intentions for the goat remain ambiguous, the sky is “threatening” due to the “intense and thunderous horizon,” and there is the man with the sack and the people lying on the streets. The scene could be one of figures fleeing the town, and it may record “the discriminations and pogroms of the Jewish people which took place in Tsarist Russia. Chagall once said: ‘If I weren’t a Jew then I wouldn’t be an artist,’” the essay concludes.

Jewish Medals At TEFAF

Friday, April 6th, 2012

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) March 16-25, 2012 (25 year anniversary) Maastricht, Netherlands http://www.tefaf.com/

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.

Some of the most fascinating displays of wealth at TEFAF were small change, so to speak—or at least they used to be. Tucked away in display cases at booths are a trove of coins (used for currency) and medals (non-legal tender), that although less dazzling than the wall-dominating medieval paintings and life-sized contemporary sculptures, are no less worthy of close examination. In fact, four medals at two vendors (Nomos in Switzerland, and Tradart in Belgium and Switzerland) are of particular interest to those who are passionate about Jewish art.

A silver medal representing Tsar Alexander I of Russia (1801-1825), labeled “The Emancipation of Russian Jews,” shows Alexander on the front (obverse), wearing the eight-pointed star of the Order of St. Andrew, Russia’s patron saint. The tsar, identified by the inscription “Alexandro,” is shown in profile dressed in armor. On the reverse side of the medal, the Jewish community is personified by a bearded (and perhaps helmeted) man looking heavenward with his hands clasped in prayer—or, as the vendor, Tradart, describes it, “as a token of gratitude to the tsar for the laws of 1804 granting Jews relative emancipation.” A Latin inscription declares, “He freed the Jews from burden, February 9, 1805.”

In front of the figure, who is dressed in biblical rather than contemporary garb, is an altar of sorts, with laurel wreaths and a flame. According to Tradart, the medal is thought to have been struck outside of Russia, with a golden copy presented personally to Alexander I. “In that case, it would precede by many years any other issuance by the Jewish community of Russia,” according to the gallery. “Knowing that engraver, Paul Merker, came from Brunswick, it could substantiate the claim that it was commissioned by the Jews of Berlin.”

Another medal at Tradart’s booth is a rectangular bronze plate commemorating the inauguration of Frankfort’s synagogue. The Hebrew inscription, “house of prayer of the upright” (depending on how one translates the word Yeshurun), appears above a sun setting (or rising) over the Frankfurt synagogue. Some of the floral details adorning the arch over the Hebrew inscription and along the sides of the plate resemble the shape of the Hebrew letter Shin, the first letter of one of the divine names and, therefore, many mezuzah cases and other Judaica objects. And beneath the synagogue representation, another Hebrew inscription offers the Hebrew date of the inauguration.

The composition of the commemorative plate evokes the title page of Soncino’s editions of the Talmud (among other secular publishing designs). Three steps (which could symbolize any number of Jewish things) lead up the synagogue, which is circumscribed by an arch and two columns. The synagogue is represented in remarkable detail, but the artist has devoted equal—if not more—attention to the borders of the piece and the inscriptions. It’s worth noting, though, that some of the inscriptions seem to be confused, as some letters are slightly more elongated than they should be, and others are imprecisely formed.

A silver medal offered by Nomos also contains Hebrew inscriptions, but doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the Jewish community. The king appears in profile, wearing what might be the Order of the Golden Fleece (it’s tough to make out, but the interlocking shapes in the chain appear to be the iconic Burgundian ‘B’). Henry VIII was hardly a friend of the Jews (there were taxes and pogroms, among other oppressions), although by some accounts, Henry VIII enlisted Jewish scholars and their biblical expertise to justify his controversial divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn.

On the reverse side of the silver medal, inscriptions in Hebrew and Greek declare Henry VIII not only king, but “supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland,” according to Nomos. The Hebrew and Greek inscriptions, as the other two biblical languages besides Latin (which appears on the front of the medal), “affirm the legitimacy of Henry’s appointment,” according to the website of the British Museum, which owns one of two gold versions of the medal.

But a close inspection of the Hebrew inscription yields a different text. The word Messiah appears prominently, and although one can make out the term “community of England,” Ireland doesn’t appear. One term that is unaccounted for in the translation is Kush, and another 10-letter word doesn’t seem to be transcribed properly. More work can certainly be done on the inscription of this medal, although Richard Bishop’s Hebraica Veritas essay on the medal is very informative, particularly in its tracing of the humanism of the time and growing interests in Greek and Hebrew. A Hebrew font was developed in Venice by Teobaldo Mannucci in the very late 15th century, according to Bishop, and study of biblical Hebrew allowed scholars to understand the bible ad fontem (“at the source”)—although through a Christian lens, of course.

Calendar Of Events

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

WHAT: Lasko Family Tours & RASG Hebrew Academy present a Passover Casino Night – gift cards, electronics, hotel getaways; fine jewelry, art, and religious Items at wholesale prices. All proceeds benefit the Hebrew Academy

WHERE: Fontainebleau Resort, Fleur de Lis Room, 4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach

WHEN: Chol Hamoed, Sunday, April 8 at 9:30 p.m.

COST: Casino Gaming – minimum buy-in: $25. Texas Hold’em Tournament – buy-in: $100. Includes kosher l’Pesach buffet; buffet only: $50

CONTACT: 305-532-6421, ext. 110 or DevelopmentOffice@rasg.org

* * * * *

WHAT: Matzah to the Troops: Miami-based Aleph Institute needs your help to send military installations shmurah matzah, food and materials for sedarim for over 2,000 Jewish military personnel and 4,000 Jewish inmates. Aleph sends over 50,000 lbs. of kosher for Passover food. The cost is astronomical. Your assistance is needed.

CONTACT: Make a pledge by calling 305-864-5553 or visiting the Aleph website at www.aleph-institute.org/freedom.

* * * * *

WHAT: Join SPARKS for a night of fun and exploration into our deeper selves as we come together to share ideas and thoughts. SPARKS offers services for pre and postnatal women to help with symptoms of postpartum depression and other women’s issues.

Welcoming remarks by Rebbetzin Chani Lipskar; keynote speaker Diane Glanz PharmD RPH doctor in France and U.S. speaking on “A Woman’s Health is a Woman’s Wealth.”

Refreshment buffet of salads, sushi and sweets; question and answer session; raffle.

WHERE: The Shul of Bal Harbour, 9540 Collins Ave, Surfside.

WHEN: April 17 at 7 p.m.

COST: $26

CONTACT: call 305-868-2426 or visit www.sparkscenter.org.

* * * * *

WHAT: Be a performer at South Florida’s Israel 64 Independence Day Celebration. The 2012 talent competition for grades 6-12 will include singing, acting, dancing and stand-up comedy. First-place winner will receive an airline ticket to Israel on El Al Airlines.

WHERE: Michael-Ann Russell JCC, 18900 NE 25th Avenue, North Miami Beach.

WHEN: June 18

COST: For information, visit www.marjcc.org.

CONTACT: Call 305-932-4200, ext. 145/151

Max Ferguson’s Portraits Of His Father

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Max Ferguson: Painting My Father April 15–June 29, 2012 Hebrew Union College Museum One West 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer) http://maxferguson.com/

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. Viewers are literally obstructed in their attempt to “enter” the image, as Ferguson has cropped out the foreground and filled it with the deli counter. Yet every detail—from the hanging meats and the scales to the portrait of the man behind the counter and the ceiling tiles—is so carefully and lovingly rendered that one can’t help but want to linger despite the blocked entrance and lack of firm ground to stand upon.

Less well-known, but arguably even more visually arresting is Ferguson’s 2005 painting, My Father in Katz’s,which is part of his upcoming solo show at Hebrew Union College that opens next month. In the painting, Ferguson’s father, Richard (1912-2005), who wears a flat cap, sits alone at a table eating a sandwich. A Dr. Brown’s cream soda (with straw), ketchup and mustard containers, and a salt shaker look up at him from the table, and Ferguson, who cleverly scrawls his signature into the wall in the bottom left corner, captures an impressive array of textures. Ferguson finds common elements in the textures, though, and one of the wall patterns (which isn’t unlike a snake’s scaly skin) is echoed in the jacket Ferguson’s dad wears. It’s a cliché, to be sure, but the work is so realistic that one can practically smell the food.

Max Ferguson. “My Father in Katz’s.” 2005. Oil on panel. 16 x 20 inches. Private Collection/The Bridgeman Art Library.

Even from a cursory glance at Ferguson’s personal website, it’s easy to see that he takes Jewish images seriously, since one of his headings under “portfolio” is devoted to Jewish works. They include Ratner (1996), a deli which is no longer in operation; Schapiro (1996), the no longer operating wine store on Rivington Street; Bagel Bakery (1998); Schindler (1995),which shows the marquee of the since closed Art Greenwich theater; Yonah Schimmel (1992), a knish bakery that is still in operation; Torah Scribe (1993), which depicts a bearded scribe writing a Torah scroll; and Matzo Bakery (1992). Works in other sections of the site—such as the drawing Butcher Shop (2003) and the oil painting Jerusalem Fish Vendor (2004)—could also appear in the section on Jewish art.

“Despite spending so much time in Jerusalem, I continue to paint primarily New York-themed imagery,” the artist notes in the Hebrew Union College press release. “I don’t want anyone ever saying about me, ‘Oh, I didn’t know he was Jewish.’ With my Ellis Island name, people often assume I am not.” Ferguson adds that the exhibit, of 30 paintings he made of his father over three decades, coincides with what would have been his father’s 100th birthday.

Not all of the images of Ferguson’s father scream their faith as loudly as the other Jewish subjects. Saturday Night/Sunday Times, strictly speaking, has nothing Jewish about it, but the full-length portrait of Ferguson’s father receiving change from a street newspaper vendor after purchasing a New York Times certainly represents a New York ritual that will speak to many Jewish viewers. Ferguson often seems to treat props as seriously as he does figures, and this piece is no exception. The stacked copies of New York Daily News, Newsday, and New York Post are rendered with as much careful attention to detail as the texture of the figure’s skin.

Though it’d be a stretch (particularly in the absence of any indication on Ferguson’s part) to suggest that the artist was drawing upon a visual tradition of Annunciations or angelic appearances, it is interesting to note that the cropping of the newspaper seller’s arm—coupled with the spotlight that illuminates the two figures—conveys something more otherworldly than a simple monetary transaction.

Max Ferguson. “My Father on Fifth Avenue.” 2011. Oil on Panel. 9½ x 12 inches.

My Father on Fifth Avenue, by comparison, is hardly otherworldly. In the painting, Ferguson’s father, clad in comfortable shoes and a striped shirt, sits on a park bench reading the newspaper. Fallen leaves litter the ground at his feet, and the stone wall behind his back is an abstract mosaic of gray stones—perhaps the way one might envision the parted Red Sea. Many of Ferguson’s paintings, including this one, evoke the work of Edward Hopper, whose figures are often lonely and forlorn. But though Ferguson’s father sits alone without another soul in sight, he is so engrossed in his newspaper that he doesn’t seem to mind.

Rich French Jews Fighting Over Nazi Looted Monet

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Last year, Ginette Heilbronn Moulin, chairwoman of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, filed a criminal complaint against the Wildenstein family accusing them of knowing the location of Monet’s “Torrent de la Creuse,” which was looted by the Nazis and disappeared after the war.

According to the NY Times, the Wildensteins are accused of hoarding about 30 works thought to be missing or stolen, among other charges, and 85-years-old Moulin believes that her Monet may be among them, or that the family knows where it is.

The Wildensteins, five generations of art sellers, are denying knowledge of the painting’s whereabouts, however, Moulin noticed that the late Daniel Wildenstein’s “widely embraced inventories of Monet’s work” list her Monet as being in a private collection: an anonymous owner in the first reference and an unidentified American owner in 1996.

The Times contacted Guy Wildenstein, the billionaire who leads the family business from New York, who declined through his lawyers to comment, but insisted that the institute never hid missing works, saying “it simply lacked a full inventory of what was in its vault.”

Let the cops make up one for them…

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/rich-french-jews-fighting-over-nazi-looted-monet/2012/03/20/

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