The Arty Semite

Slideshow: Paintings That Hang in the Balance

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Steve Meyer

As you stand in the Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco, you can’t be sure if the figures in Joshua Meyer’s multi-layered oil paintings are emerging toward you or receding away into a complex sea of colors. That lack of certainty suits the artist just fine, as he considers his paintings to reside in “a netherworld, an in-between place of frictions, edges and reactions between different things.”

The 16 paintings by Meyer which make up this show, titled “Everything in Between” and which runs until January 29, exist in stark contrast to the clean, sharp lines of the gallery space with its white walls, blond wood floor and large, loft-like windows overlooking the tony Union Square shopping district.

Meyer explained that it is impossible to make a line when painting with a palette knife, as he has done almost exclusively for the past decade. “I found something intrinsically wrong about brushes. With a knife, you work more spot by spot, moment by moment. It’s about juxtaposition rather than smooth motion,” he said.

View a slideshow of paintings by Joshua Meyer:

Although all of Meyer’s paintings start as figures, what eventually emerges is neither wholly representational nor completely abstract, and intentionally hangs in the between “memory and life, aesthetics and facts, ideas and reality.”

Meyer, 37, who has been painting steadily since his days at Yale University and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem in the mid-1990s, never works with a specific theme in mind. “If there are themes, they are what has escaped from the chaos of my day-to-day life. I just start each day and things emerge organically,” he said. Accordingly, the individuals portrayed in each of his paintings are all friends and family members in Cambridge, Mass., where he lives with his wife and two children. “They’re people who spend time in my studio and my life…but as I work, I focus not on what the person looks like, but on what the painting should look like,” he said.

The artist works on multiple pieces at a time, taking anywhere from a month to a year to complete each one. His canvases range in size from 14 inches by 14 inches to four feet per side. He finds the larger ones, in which the size of the figure is more critical, to be more of a challenge. “They take forever,” he said. But despite the size of the canvas, the “painting is a journey with no fixed end point. I paint until I paint myself out.”

Given his technique, Meyer is indebted to painters such as Rembrandt and Velasquez, who “aggressively layered, and didn’t hide their steps.” They inspired him to create works whereby the viewer “can see how the painting came into being, its story. Each little bit of paint whispers little secrets of where things were and are,” Meyer reflected.

Meyer considers himself a Jewish artist in that “Judaism is an enormous part of my life and identity.” As a kippah-wearing, observant Jew, “Judaism takes up a large swath of my physical and mental terrain.” Although very little about his work is explicitly Jewish, to him, every painting he makes is “intentionally Jewish.” He explains this by saying that “very little is explicit, but a lot is implied,” including his sense of self as a creator being built around his understanding of the book of Genesis.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yale University, Velasquez, San Francisco, Renee Ghert-Zand, Rembrandt, Painting, Joshua Meyer, Exhibits, Dolby Chadwick Gallery, Cambridge, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design

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!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • 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.