The Arty Semite

Beth Grossman: The Woman With the Golden Rule

By Dan Friedman

  • Print
  • Share Share

Jewish women artists are not, thank goodness, an apologetic breed. But that does not mean that they are all aggressive didacts. Beth Grossman’s latest small show, “All the Rest is Commentary,” is a firm but gentle reminder of what’s most important in life: taking it’s name from Rabbi Hillel’s legendary dictum “Love thy neighbor as thyself, all the rest is commentary.”

Featuring 12 tablecloths on the wall, the show embraces the domestic setting that is the stereotypical domain of femininity. The mottos printed on the tablecloths, though, are much less confined in scope, being experessions of the golden rule from 12 different cultures. The Jewish statement of this basic humanity is present in the title and location of the show, but the show itself is designed, through workshops, talks and planned out lessons to be universal.

I first heard about Beth Grossman in 2006 when I edited Sarah Glover’s piece “Remembering Miriam: Beth Grossman’s ‘Our Mother Mary Found’” for Zeek and I was impressed by the commitment to the beauty of objects, the importance of religion and the unwavering confidence in the woman’s perspective that Grossman seemed to have. (The same journal now has Arlene Goldbard’s essay inspired by the current show.)

The current show, informed by the work of Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, is less beautiful than her first two important shows (“Passages” and “Our Mother Mary Found”) but no less provocative. The show is obviously not provocative in the sense of an elephant-dung painted Jesus, but by foregrounding the substantial question: “What is important?” A question which — the subtext implies — is answered by the golden rule in each culture, but ignored daily by those cultures.

The rules are surprisingly similar — Hillel’s phrase is run through different shades of “respect” and “esteem” and figuration: “The heart of the person before you is a mirror, see there your own form.” My favorite is the Yoruba saying which provides, essentially, a midrash on the golden rule. With all these wisdom sayings in the world, Grossman seems to be saying, why are we not wiser?

All the Rest is Commentary,” is on display until July 30, 2010 at The JCC in Manhattan, New York.

Watch Beth Grossman’s slideshow below.

Beth Grossman slideshow from the jcc in manhattan on Vimeo.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jenny Holzer, Beth Grossman, Barbara Kruger, Arlene Goldbard, Zeek

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.