The Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration is well known for having supported artists such as Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston and Mark Rothko, and for having helped produced some of the most significant American artworks of the 20th century.
One of the less-known WPA artists was Leon Bibel (1913-1995), a painter, printmaker and sculptor who worked in California with the likes of Bernhard Zackheim, and in New York with many WPA-supported colleagues. Now Bibel is being celebrated in his own right with an exhibit at the Borowsky Gallery of the Gershman Y in Philadelphia, “Leon Bibel: Art & Activism in The WPA,” on view until November 20.
Born in Szczebrzeszyn, Poland, Bibel came to the U.S. with his family and trained at the California School of Fine Arts. During his time in California he assisted Zackheim with the frescos at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center and the University of California at San Francisco’s Toland Hall. In 1936 he moved to New York where he worked as an art teacher before moving to South Brunswick, New Jersey, where he took up chicken farming and became a friend of sculptor George Segal.
While you have to admire Bob Dylan’s persistent touring now that he’s in his 70s, even die-hard fans admit that the singer-songwriter’s voice is pretty much shot. If you’re not likely to get much aesthetic pleasure out of a Dylan concert these days, however, there are other ways to appreciate his recent work.
Starting today, Dylan’s paintings are being shown for the first time in New York in an exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery titled “The Asia Series.”
For decades Dylan has dabbled in drawing and painting, creating album covers for The Band’s 1968 “Music From the Big Pink” and his own 1970 album, “Self Portrait.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Dylan also credited the success of 1975’s “Blood on the Tracks” to his studies with New York City painting teacher Norman Raeben.
An exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls is scheduled to go on view in New York on October 28. The exhibit, titled “Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times,” was put together by the Israel Antiquities Authority and will take place at Discovery Times Square in Manhattan.
According to a press release, the exhibit will be “the most comprehensive collection of ancient artifacts from Israel ever organized” and will include, in addition to 20 of the scrolls, over 500 artifacts, including one of the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible and a three-ton stone from the Western Wall.
The last time the Dead Sea Scrolls were exhibited in North America was at a controversial 2009 showing of four previously unseen fragments at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, and later at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibit, titled “Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World,” drew tens of thousands of visitors, as well as the condemnation of the Palestinian Authority, who claimed that the artifacts had been stolen from illegally occupied land in East Jerusalem.
Following its showing in New York, the upcoming exhibit will travel to Philadelphia’s The Franklin Institute in May, 2012.
Crossposted from Haaretz
The three bronze dwarf sculptures that greet visitors to the museum of the city of Wroclaw, Poland are a relatively new reminder of the city’s turbulent history. If the dwarf statues scattered across the city perpetuate the Orange Alternative opposition movement that was founded there in the 1980s and daubed graffiti of dwarfs in public spaces to protest the authoritarianism of the country’s communist regime, demanding among other things “a revolution of dwarfs,” the museum offers a broader perspective.
It is located in the Gothic city hall building in the heart of the market square, surveys the history of Wroclaw and the influences of German, Polish, Czech and Jewish culture, and does not forget to leave room for the giants: several dozen of the city’s most famous sons, in a display of busts at the museum’s entrance.
The entrance to the first Berlin Jewish Museum. Image courtesy of Centrum Judaicum.
As valuable as art can be, Karl Schwarz knew that life is much more precious. That is why he fled with his family to Tel Aviv from Berlin only months after opening the first Jewish museum in that city in January, 1933. Now, almost 80 years later, a portion of the art that Schwarz collected has been painstakingly reassembled and put on display on the same spot where his museum once stood.
The search for the art, looted and stashed away by the Nazis, has preoccupied Hermann Simon, director of the Centrum Judaicum (which stands where the museum once did, next to the New Synagogue on Oranienburgerstrasse) and his deputy, Chana Schuetz, for the past 30 years. Not all the components of the original collection, which included works by Max Liebermann, Marc Chagall, Lesser Ury, Moritz Oppenheim and Leonid Pasternak, have been located. The majority of those that have been recovered are on loan to the Centrum Judaicum for the show, which is titled “In Search of a Lost Collection.”
The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, Calif., has cancelled a planned exhibit of art by Palestinian children, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The exhibit, which was scheduled to run from September 24 to November 13, was to have featured artwork by children aged 9 to 11 depicting the 2008-2009 Gaza war, including images of bombs, tanks and shootings.
In the past the museum has featured artwork by children at the Kaiser shipyard child care center during World War II, and by Iraqi children during the American invasion of 2003.
According to the Chronicle, the museum decided to cancel the Gaza exhibit after receiving pressure “from Jewish groups as well as others in the community.” The exhibit was co-organized by the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which attributed the cancellation to “a concerted effort by pro-Israel organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
“We don’t have any political stake in this thing,” said museum board member Randolph Bell. “It just became apparent that we needed to rethink this.”
According to its publicity materials, “Response Art: An Experiment in Politics, Power, and Pop-Culture,” the exhibit currently running at the Dershowitz Center for Pro-Israel Art, deep in Brooklyn’s South Slope neighborhood, promises to show what happens when artists and intellectuals “struggle together towards a new understanding of Israel and the Middle East — aided by the vision of artists inspired by the tremendous burst of cultural creativity unleashed during the ‘Arab Spring’ and ‘Israeli Summer.’”
Over the past few months, the artists involved attended a series of lectures and panel discussions exploring the current situation in Israel. They were then asked to “transform the themes, arguments, and emotions they observed into art.” The work on exhibit now is the result of this process — their “response,” as it were.
One can imagine something great and necessary coming out of this: a challenging mix of competing ideas, Jews and Palestinians coming together at last to engage frankly and honestly, at least through art, in the hard conversations that are required if either side is going to survive. But that assumption would be naïve.
How does one heal from a traumatic event on the scale of 9/11? That’s the question tackled by artist Tobi Kahn in his exhibit, “Embodied Light: 9/11 in 2011,” on view at The Educational Alliance in Downtown Manhattan until November 23.
Kahn, a painter, sculptor and professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, is well known for creating meditative spaces in museums as well as places such as hospitals and hospices. “Embodied Light” contains Kahn’s own work as well as a series of 220 wooden blocks, representing the 220 floors of the twin towers, which were decorated by a wide array of New Yorkers. The Forward talked to Kahn about 9/11, creating sacred spaces, and the healing potential of art.
You know those images the street artist known as Banksy painted on walls in the West Bank in 2007, and displayed in his recent film “Exit Through the Gift Shop”? Well, they’re not there anymore. Instead, they are on display at an art gallery in the Hamptons, and on sale for very high prices.
The owner of the Keszler Gallery, Stephan Keszler, claimed that he bought the artworks from Palestinian entrepreneurs who removed them — huge chunks of wall and all — from the Bethlehem structures on which they were painted. Keszler reportedly said this was all done legally, and that the excevators paid the owners of the structures Banksy had decorated. They had then planned to sell the art on eBay, but got cold feet when they realized how difficult it would be to move such massive pieces of concrete over international borders.
Until two of them passed away of complications from AIDS in 1994, the art collective known as General Idea produced an enormous body of intellectually engaging, provocative, and savagely witty work, much of which explored notions of identity and social control. On July 30, the trio will get its first comprehensive retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario when “Haute Culture: General Idea” opens for a five-month run.
Though none of the work on display carries Jewish themes, much of General Ideas oeuvre confronts fascism and manipulation in multiple forms — familial, sexual, political and media-spawned. As surviving member AA Bronson told The Arty Semite at a press preview this week, his late collaborator Jorge Zontal was born Slobodan Saia-Levy in an Italian concentration camp in 1944.
Zontal, who formed General Idea with Bronson and the late Felix Partz, was “a Sephardic Jew whose family originated in Spain,” Bronson said. “But Jorge was never circumcised. The family wanted to pass as Roman Catholic.”
El Lissitzky, ‘For the Voice (Dlia golosa),’ 1923. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Record” is a tiny work of art, measuring no more than a few inches in either direction. But the photographic print, created by the Russian Jewish artist El Lissitzky in 1926, may be the signature piece in “Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life,” a new exhibit that opened in June at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The exhibit, nestled in the Art Institute’s impressive new Modern Wing, features the work of six European artists — John Heartfield, Gustav Klutsis, Ladislav Sutnar, Karel Teige and Piet Zwart, in addition to Lissitzky — who brought an avant-garde aesthetic to everyday objects during the interwar period. It’s a bit heavy on propaganda art — a few too many red-and-gray Soviet posters line the walls — but the exhibit is otherwise clever and well designed. Sutnar’s cover designs for Czech editions of George Bernard Shaw plays sit opposite Zwart’s funky translucent-green teapots. It works.
When you’ve already had 10 solo exhibits by age 12 and been named the world’s youngest professional artist by the Guinness Book of World Records, where do you go from there? In the case of Stanislav “Stass” Shpanin, a 21-year-old artist from the Former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, you just keep painting.
Since arriving in the U.S. in 2005, Shpanin, now a student at the Hartford Art School at the University of Connecticut, has been building on an already impressive career in the Former Soviet Union and Israel. His latest exhibit, “Age of Empires,” is now on view until July 26 at the Waltuch Gallery in Tenafly, New Jersey. An opening reception for the exhibit will take place July 10.
‘Chair’ by Micha Ullman, From ‘Under,’ 2011. Courtesy of The Israel Museum.
Despite an almost clinical spareness immediately evident at The Israel Museum’s new Micha Ullman exhibition, one quickly comes to appreciate that the works — individually and as a whole — hint at something more than the stark minimalism they first suggest. Chairs appear consumed by the solid ground; plain display boxes contain red earth, coaxed into abstract yet recognizable forms. There is something of the primeval about the exhibit, a sense of complexity stripped to its most basic elements.
“Sands of Time: The Work of Micha Ullman” is, perhaps surprisingly, the first major retrospective of the artist’s extensive output, spanning the better part of half a century and incorporating sculpture, drawing, etching and installations. The exhibit, running until November 12, is divided into four sections: sculpture, sand, drawings and videos of installations. The main room is dominated by iron sculptures and creations in sand; one might think of the solidity of the one and the fluidity of the other as a study in contrasts. Rather, what surprises is the compatibility between the two.
Arnold Newman, Chaim Gross with ‘Happy Mother,’ 1942. Courtesy of the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation and the Arnold Newman Archive.
During the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, sculptor Chaim Gross (1904-1991) spent two summer months outdoors, working in front of crowds that totalled some 80,000 people. “I would look them over and if they looked intelligent I would answer their questions but if not I would keep on working,” he told the New York Herald Tribune.
It wasn’t just tourists and passersby that stopped to see Gross work. LIFE Magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon also came by, and took several striking pictures of the sculptor, busy in the act of creation.
Those photos are part of a current exhibit, “Displayed: Stages for Sculpture,” on view until December 16 at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in New York. A practitioner of the “direct carving” method who created totemic human figures out of wood and stone, Gross was a perfect subject for photographers who wanted to capture his creative process.
While various critics have noted the strong influence that Jews have had on the creation of American comics, few have fully explored the role of Jewish women. Yet Jewish women have often been at the forefront of creative explorations in the graphic narrative form. And in many of their comics, Jewish identity is a fertile site of exploration of the unstable, contradictory, and ambiguous figurations of the self in a postmodern world.
In a June 23 talk at the New York Public Library in connection with the Forward-sponsored “Graphic Details” exhibit, I will discuss how Jewish identity figures in the works of various contemporary cartoonists, especially those of Aline Kominsky-Crumb. In her autobiographical comics, Kominsky-Crumb plays with long-held stereotypes about Jewish women and their bodies, about women and their bodies more generally, and about the representation of such bodies in the interface of various autobiographical modes. While her work has caused some to refer to her as “sexist and anti-Semitic,” Kominsky-Crumb does not simply reject such bodily codings in favor of new, more politically correct portrayals of Jewish women. Instead, she confronts stereotypical representations of Jewish women by recognizing how ingrained they are in her subjectivity and by portraying them as a constant and sometimes even productive influence in how she sees herself and others. Her work offers up the possibility that longstanding categorizations of the Jewish woman can become empowering, depending not only on who is making the statement (or creating the image), but also on how it is being made.
Shulamith Koenig has little reason to be humble. Well-known for her work as a human rights advocate and her role as founding president of the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, she is, with Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimmy Carter and James Grant, a recipient of the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights. Besides human rights activism Koenig also works as a sculptor, and has exhibited and toured with the like of Japan’s Isamu Noguchi. But in “Industrial Evolution: From Art to Industry to Art,” a diminutive five-sculpture show at New York’s ET Modern gallery in Chelsea, the artwork offers no reflection on Koenig’s many accomplishments. Instead, it pays respectful homage to the mundane work of others, offering something like a frame for an invisible, unknown craftsman.
Adolf Konrad, packing list, December 16, 1963. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
One of my greatest joys and, along with brushing my teeth, one of the great constants in my life, is making lists.
While my abiding affection for ordering, lining up and then crossing out (what pleasure!) the things I need to do every day may strike some as oddly misplaced, I come by this crotchet honestly. My father, you see, happened to be a great one for lists, filling yellow legal pads with line after line of “to-do” this and that.
He was in good company. H.L. Mencken liked making lists, as did Ad Reinhardt and dozens of other celebrated artists and writers whose tabulations are currently on display at the Morgan Library & Museum in a small but winsome exhibition titled “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations.”
In “Genius,” the current exhibit by Israeli artist Nir Hod at New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery, pouty, fat-cheeked little boys glare out at the viewer, lit cigarettes dangling insolently from their sausage-like fingers. The series of more than 50 paintings, on view until June 18, is the latest installment in Hod’s growing body of arresting, lurid, and occasionally grotesque artworks.
The Tel Aviv-born painter, photographer, poet and video artist, currently based in New York, came to prominence in Israel in the 1990s with “Forever,” an exhibit and book featuring campy, exaggeratedly glamorous images of Israeli soldiers. Hod began painting the current series three years ago, at first as a side project, but eventually as a more concerted undertaking.
As it’s title suggests, the subjects of “Genius” are precocious and often creepy-looking children behaving provocatively like adults. They are dressed in elegant outfits and sport elaborate hair-dos that are obviously dated but whose period is difficult to pin down. Between their clothes and their dismissive facial expressions these little “geniuses” suggest the corrupting and destructive effects of privilege on the young. Both seductive and repulsive, their sad glamour and insistent sophistication seem to mask a deeper vulnerability.
View a slideshow from Nir Hod’s ‘Genius’:
‘DeadSee,’ by Sigalit Landau. Courtesy of the artist and Kamel Mennour Gallery.
While pavilions at the Venice Biennale are typically shrouded in secrecy in the months approaching one of the art world’s biggest events, the content of Israel’s pavilion this year is under especially opaque wraps. In June, Israel will be represented by 42-year-old artist Sigalit Landau, who is prone to keeping mum about her work. But in an event held last March at Sotheby’s auction house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Landau sat down with one of her curators, Jean de Loisy (the other is Ilan Wizgan), to speak about her concept, “One Man’s Floor Is Another Man’s Feelings.” The event was sponsored by Artis Contemporary Israeli Art Fund and by Kamel Mennour Gallery, which represents Landau in Paris.
Though the project was still in formation at the time, we can report that Landau will address the situation in the Middle East while putting it in a larger perspective; de Loisy put it as “speaking of the local, dealing with the universal.” Using water as an overarching metaphor, as well as salt and land, Landau will discuss coexistence and interdependence, reflecting on Israel’s close proximity to its neighbors. She also seemed to be interested in pre-state settlement activity.
Performance and installation artist Helène Aylon scrutinizes the entrenched, sometimes invisible, belief systems that shape society. Since the 1970s, she has used her work as a tool for poetic dissent and constructive revisionism. Aylon’s early work contributed to the women’s movement, opposing the unrealistic imagery pedaled by magazines like Playboy. In the 1980s, her focus shifted to ecology and nuclear non-proliferation. By 1990, she turned her penetrating gaze to the religious texts that helped to define her female identity.
The Pentateuch, or Chumash, is the focus of Aylon’s exhibition “The Liberation of G-d and The Unmentionable,” now on view at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. The show is part of the Warhol’s ongoing series, “The Word of God,” which features art that addresses religion in ways intended to promote understanding between faiths. Aylon’s show follows the series’s controversial first installment, Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an.” While controversy is also central to Aylon’s exhibition, her approach is more analytical than accusatory. Aylon acknowledges this, dedicating the show, in part, to her fifth grade Hebrew teacher and a female principal, who “encouraged Boro Park girls to question.”