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!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • 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.