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29 Kislev 5778 -
? Sunday, December 17, 2017


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An Ancient ‘Obsession’ with Sukkot Iconography

In some ways, Sukkot is the most contemporary of holidays. Many pay good money and invest a lot of time and effort to obtain a beautiful etrog-indeed its biblical name is "fruit of the beautiful tree"-and the most visually appealing lulav, hadasim and aravot. There are various schools of thought on whether to refrigerate or not to refrigerate, to wrap in aluminum foil or wet paper towel, all with the goal of preventing the four species from spoiling and jeopardizing their smell and visual appearance. There is no specific requirement that the schach covering the sukkah be alive-indeed it cannot be made of something still attached to the ground-but the entire atmosphere of Sukkot is one of growth, natural living, and disengaging from our comfort zone. Indeed, it is on the extended Sukkot holiday that a prayer is offered for rain, the source of life.

The Politics Of Jewish Calendars

Although jokes abound about how punctual German Jews (Yekes) are, the concept of "Jewish Standard Time," presumably mocking the non-Germanic segments of the Jewish population, has earned an entry in Urban Dictionary for "15 minutes late to everything" or "being late to an important event."

Philadelphia Museum Exhibit Showcases Chagall’s Jewish Circle

Although the subject matter of Marc Chagall's 1910 painting Resurrection of Lazarus clearly comes from Christian scripture, the artist put his decidedly Jewish mark on the image twice over. Chagall depicted both a Star of David and two hands - signifying the priestly blessing - on the tomb from which the haloed Lazarus has emerged. Although Jewish burial traditions tended to represent the priestly hands with the index and middle fingers touching and the ring and small fingers touching and a gap in between, Chagall, perhaps forgetting the convention, elected to spread all the fingers out evenly.

Chagall’s Bible Images

Ironically the same quote by art critic Robert Hughes cited in my May 20th review "Chagall and the Cross" namely that Marc Chagall was the "quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century," is applicable in our consideration of Chagall's images for his graphic masterpiece, The Bible. Except here it illuminates the truth: his greatness as a Jewish artist is founded on his lifelong obsession with the Torah. No matter how far he strayed from his Jewish roots, even his late-in-life dalliance with Judeo-Christian universalism as surveyed in that review, nothing could compromise his amazing insights and comprehension of the Torah narratives.

Moriah’s Illuminated Torah

Avner Moriah, the well-known Israeli artist, has illuminated the Book of Genesis. No small feat, he has conjured images for all the major narratives as well as alluding to other analogous stories throughout the Torah. He sees the first book of Torah as nothing less than "a poem," a minimalist text that yields an unending series of explorations of the mysteries and conundrums of the human condition. While this is hardly the first nor largest of his explorations of biblical and Jewish narrative, it is easily the most ambitious.

Sotheby’s Jewish Vision

Every year in the early winter the world-renowned auction house, Sotheby's, presents an auction of Israeli and International (Jewish) Art and Judaica. It is always a delight and Sunday, December 12 was no exception. Since it is an international affair, the foremost experts assemble the finest artworks available. The efforts of specialists Rivka Saker, Sigal Mordechai, Daria Gluck, Esta Kilstein and Jennifer Roth of Sotheby's Israel and Jennifer Roth, Sharon Liberman Mintz, David Wachtel, Elizabeth Muller, John Ward, Jill Waddell, Kevin Tierney here in New York were well rewarded. It was a truly exciting exhibition that frequently surprised one with new insights into many familiar artists.

Interbellum Art

"By breaking statues one risks turning into one oneself," says a caption in Jean Cocteau's 1930 film, "The Blood of a Poet." The statement could be a postmodern take on Psalm 115, which declares that those who make idols (which have mouths but cannot speak, eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear, noses but cannot smell, hands but cannot feel and feet but cannot walk), "shall become like them, all that place their faith in them."

A Jewish Art Salon Exhibit

In many ways, it should be a no-brainer for readers of The Jewish Press to make the decision to visit the latest Jewish Art Salon exhibit, Seduced by the Sacred, or, if the trek to Hartford is prohibitive, to immerse themselves in the works online. After all, most readers of this publication are surely already seduced by the sacred - however problematic the definition of both terms may be - and, particularly if they are regular readers of this column, they will be intrigued by the question of new Jewish art.

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

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.

The Adventure of a Jewish Photographer: Miriam Mörsel Nathan’s Photo-Paintings

In Italo Calvino's short story "The Adventure of a Photographer," part of his collection Difficult Loves (1985), the "non-photographer" and bachelor Antonino Paraggi, finds himself increasingly alienated from his married friends who go out with their families and cameras each Sunday and "come back as happy as hunters with bulging game bags," their photographic catch of the day.

Anything But Your Grandmother’s Candle Sticks: Contemporary Judaica

A tallit with pastel-colored circular candies on the atarah (literally crown, the top, embellished portion of the garment); a hand held golden bulldozer used to collect chametz on Passover; a mezuzah that shows the three letter name of God (shin, daled, yud, the Sustainer) on a computer keyboard above an "Enter" button, where the text of the mezuzah appears (in the typography of a Torah scroll) on the monitor.

Anything But Your Grandmother’s Candle Sticks: Contemporary Judaica

A tallit with pastel-colored circular candies on the atarah (literally crown, the top, embellished portion of the garment); a hand held golden bulldozer used to collect chametz on Passover; a mezuzah that shows the three letter name of God (shin, daled, yud, the Sustainer) on a computer keyboard above an "Enter" button, where the text of the mezuzah appears (in the typography of a Torah scroll) on the monitor.

Toby Cohen’s Hovering Hassidim

One of my favorite characters in all of literature is the senile patriarch José Arcadio Buendía, of Gabriel García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, who, before getting tied to a tree for his own protection, decides he would like to capture God in a daguerreotype. José's ultimately unsuccessful design solution is to jump out from around a corner hoping to catch the deity unawares.

Toby Cohen’s Hovering Hassidim

One of my favorite characters in all of literature is the senile patriarch Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, of Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, who, before getting tied to a tree for his own protection, decides he would like to capture God in a daguerreotype. Jos?'s ultimately unsuccessful design solution is to jump out from around a corner hoping to catch the deity unawares.

It’s My Opinion: Taking Action

Hollywood Central Elementary is one of the many Florida schools that has had to cut programs and "extras" because of budgetary concerns. The arts department was one of the first programs to be discontinued. Unfortunately, this type of situation is much too typical in these times. Today's economy is responsible for reductions in many schools and institutions.

Nechama Farber: From Belarus To Jerusalem

Little did artist Nechama Farber know, when growing up in Minsk, Belarus, that some day she would yearn to live in Israel, become an artist, sell her Judaic paintings, drawings and prints internationally, be commission to create portraits for Jewish families, and, most noteworthy, create an original painting for one of the most grandiose synagogues in Eastern Europe, the 102 year old Riga Synagogue in Latvia.

Ma’ayan: Zalman’s Suite

Yisgadal v'yisgadash sh'mai rabba b'alma dee v'ra chir'usay. For many Jews there comes a time when we will say these words every day, many times a day, for 11 months as part of the process of mourning a parent. We bravely declare, "May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed." Over and over we repeat this plea, this affirmation of the greatness of God who took away our loved one. Our loss becomes the occasion for us to proclaim the glory of God's name found in His creation, the very world around us.

Geographical Silhouettes

Per Deuteronomy 21, when a corpse is found in the wilderness, an elaborate ceremony ensues that is clearly intended to disrupt the regular routines of the townspeople living nearby. The judges and elders determine which city is closest to the crime scene, and the elders of that city take a young calf, which has never been yoked, to a dismal valley, which could never sustain agricultural life, where they break the calf's neck. The Levites then arrive to observe the elders washing their hands over the bloody calf and declaring, "Our hands did not spill this blood, nor did our eyes perceive it. Therefore, God, forgive your people Israel, whom You redeemed, and do not allow innocent blood to flow amongst your nation, and let this blood atone for them."

Is There Religious Significance To Man Ray’s African Obsession?

Jews, and particularly Jewish kings of the biblical period, are not supposed to be too keen on horses. An unhealthy love for things equestrian, according to the admonition in Deuteronomy 17:16, will tempt the king to return the Jewish people to Egypt. That being said, it must be admitted upfront that it is quite a stretch to ask whether a biblical prohibition against amassing royal stables of Egyptian horses applies to Jewish artists today.

Singer’s Artists

The illustrator stands in an oft-denigrated position, scorned by modernists and traditional purists alike. For both schools of thought the sublime of art cannot be rendered literal. On the other hand, illustrators are curiously accepted if not celebrated by those in a postmodern disposition. In the last twenty years or so a creative relationship to text, narrative or non-visual motifs has gained legitimacy if not primacy in the visual arts. Under the watchful guidance of director Jean Bloch Rosensaft and the curatorial skill of Laura Kruger, the Hebrew Union College Museum casts one of its current exhibitions into this ideational fray. "Isaac Bashevis Singer and his Artists"is in its curious way an exposition on the illustrational as a contemporary motif.

Tribute To The Life Of Rhoda Gebiner

I thought she would be with us forever. My beloved aunt Rhoda was 101, 102 or maybe 103 when she passed. Aunt Rhoda was one of the first people to see me when I was born and I was one of the last people to see her before she passed away.

A Jewish Thought Bestowed Upon The Nations: Yaakov Agam, 2009 World Games

Kinetic sculpture is an art that has existed since ancient Egypt. To be considered kinetic the sculpture has to have parts that move or are in motion, like a mobile that hangs over a child's crib.

Teaching Chekhov To Recite The Havdalah

In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a troupe of Athenian actors, "rude mechanicals" according to the sprite Puck, meets in the woods to rehearse "the most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby." Puck frustrates the efforts of Quince, Snug, Flute, Snout, and Starveling to practice when he turns Bottom into a donkey. "If he come not, then the play is marred: it goes not forward, doth it?" worries Flute, but in the end the play-within-a-play transpires on schedule, with all its absurd disclaimers designed not to frighten the court ladies.

Yad Sarah: Finding Lessons In Israel

"When I first started," said Beverly Marcus, "I couldn't sleep the night before because I'd be so nervous, wondering what I'd do and how it would go. And then I wouldn't sleep the night after a class, either, because I was so excited. It really gives me a high."

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