Part of the Museum's focus is dedicated to the subject of the Jewish Journey, Jewish culture, and Jewish continuity. The main exhibition is about the Jewish experience as it has evolved from ancient times to the present day. The exhibit highlights the question of how Judaism has been able to thrive for thousands of years across the globe, even in challenging times, through Jewish texts and objects.
Jewish texts have been the central factor in the survival and evolution of Jewish continuity. The objects on exhibit such as Torah scrolls, other religious scrolls, and Jewish ritual objects, all reflect the different ways Jews have expressed their sense of what it means to be Jewish throughout history, in various countries, cultures, and religious contexts. The Culture and Continuity exhibit is located on two floors of the museum. There is so much to say about the exhibit, but most of what I will blog about will focus on the visual arts.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, and beginning in the 3rd Century CE, synagogues were often decorated with beautiful mosaic floors and wall frescoes. Jewish symbols included biblical figures, Hebrew writing, the menorah, and the shofar. Below are some photos of one of these mosaic floors, including a detailed/close-up photo. These mosaics reminded me of my signature style of my personal artwork, creating the illusion of mosaic tile using acrylic paint for my paintings.
I was particularly interested in the paintings at the museum, many of which I will highlight in this blog article. Max Weber, who lived from 1881 to 1961, is perhaps one of the most notable artists who portrayed Jewish life in his artwork. Max Weber was born in Russia and emigrated to the the US. Below on the left is a photo of Weber's famous oil on canvas painting, "The Talmudists," painted in New York in 1934. In his early years, he was a great admirer of the artist, Paul Cezanne, and studied art in Paris from 1905-1908. Cezanne's influence can be seen in his earlier works, including the painting, "Still Life with Challah" exhibited at the Jewish Museum. Most of his early works were still lifes and focused on Jewish ritual objects for Shabbat. By 1919, Weber abandoned formal experimentation and turned to Jewish subjects in pursuit of the spiritual.
Marc Chagall was another famous Jewish artist who had work displayed at the Jewish Museum. Chagall had a lifelong fascination with the Bible and much of his artwork expresses his passion for using his artistic expression to convey the imagery of the Bible. A lithograph on paper, "Moses Displays the Ten Commandments" from "The Story of the Exodus", 1966, is shown to the right.
Shown below, this 1986 large acrylic on canvas painting by David Reeb, an Israeli artist, titled "Map of Israel" is one of a series of paintings that incorporated the pre-1967 Israeli border, known as the "Green Line." Reeb was one of the most outspoken Israeli artists of his generation and was preoccupied with the political implications of the map of Israel. The ongoing conflict between Israel and her neighbors and the conflict around national borders is the major theme in his series of paintings. In this painting, Reeb portrays the outline of the realistic map as the main motif on an abstract patterned surface. In the photos below, I've included 3 photos showing some of the incredible detail of this fascinating painting.
Another fascinating exhibit called "You Don't Have to Be Jewish" featured a compilation of television commercials and clips from the museum's National Jewish Archive of Broadcasting, paired with print advertising campaigns, works of art, and more. The exhibit explores material produced for Jewish audiences or with Jewish content and the way religion, ethnicity, and identity play out on American television. The exhibition closed in early February.
Also on exhibit from November 4, 2016 to March 26, 2017 was "Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design." Pierre Chareau was a celebrated French furniture designer, architect, and art collector. The exhibit showcases rare furniture, lighting fixtures, and interiors, and even featured virtual reality glasses to immerse the viewer in the architectural renderings.
One of the most fascinating exhibits that I've seen this past year was "Take Me (I'm Yours)." The exhibit is based on a 1995 exhibit at the Serpentine Gallery in London, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and the artist Christian Boltanski.
In a conventional museum experience, it is the visitor that consumes art by looking at the paintings, sculptures, or photographs on exhibit. Typically, one is not allowed to touch the art, and certainly not allowed to take them home! Take Me (I'm Yours) defies this well-established standard by featuring works by more than 40 artists from different generations and from all over the globe: The goal of the exhibit is to encourage you to not only touch the artwork, but also to take them away with you and keep them for yourself. Some of the things I walked away with were a can of lemon-flavored sparking water, photographs of glamorous women from the 1950s, stencils, temporary tattoos, pins, hard candies, pill capsules, fabric patches, and more!
The exhibition ended in February. I've posted a few photos below. Photos of visitor experiences can be found online using the hashtag: #TakeMeImYoursNYC.
During my visit, I saw a drop-in art workshop underway, where families were creating works of art together inspired by exhibitions currently on view at the Museum. On Sundays, families can participate in studio art sessions, experience a simulated archaeological dig, or experience the museum's exhibitions with a printed Kids Gallery Guide. The Museum hosts family concerts, workshops and vacation week programming, and workshops for kids with disabilities. For more information, visit: TheJewishMuseum.org/Families.
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