Unlisted: Underappreciated Women Artists from the Permanent Collection

On view in the Museum May 29–October 2, 2022
Click here to visit the ongoing online exhibition

This exhibition highlights seventeen mid- to late twentieth-century women artists selected from the permanent collection who worked in modernist styles, yet are not often exhibited today despite their significant skills, careers and accomplishments. The exhibition is on view in the Museum through October 2, 2022.

“Listed” is used to describe artists included in standard art reference books. The term is often used by third-tier auction houses and online auction websites to indicate that an artist is of a certain status and to bolster their legitimacy. “Unlisted,” the title of this exhibition, exposes the irony of the term and the arbitrariness of the art world. The impact is particularly significant for women who, in addition to attempting to establish reputations as professional artists, had to compete in a sexist, male-dominated art world. In some cases, forced to choose between traditional gender roles and a career, women artists gave up their artistic practice, further driving their names into obscurity.

Five of the artists in this exhibition are represented with prints that reflect their diverse approaches to the medium. These include a stark black-and-white etching by Lily Harmon (b. New Haven, Connecticut, 1913–d. New York, New York, 1998); a fragile, textured collatype by Gertrude Perrin (b. New York, New York, 1908–d. Boynton Beach, Florida, 1998); delicate images of water and sky by Shirley Roman (b. Brooklyn, New York, 1919–d. Madison, Wisconsin, 2010); and avant-garde works by Ruth Cyril (b. New York, New York, 1920–d. ?) and Terry Haass (b. Ceský Tešín, Czechoslovakia, now Czechia, 1923–d. Paris, France, 2016).

Roman primarily depicted seascapes, creating rich textures, patterns and colors in her etchings. Three prints in this exhibition display her technical skill at rendering color gradations and pattern, as evinced, for example, in the fine lines and delicate grays of Maelstrom (ca. early 1970s). Roman was a member of Graphic Eye Gallery, one of several artist cooperatives formed in the 1970s in the Port Washington area of Long Island that was comprised primarily of women.

Cyril and Haass were members of Atelier 17, the influential avant-garde printmaking studio founded in Paris in 1927 by Stanley William Hayter, which relocated to New York City temporarily during World War II. The workshop attracted many women artists since membership did not discriminate based on gender. Haass’s Meteors (ca. 1960s) and Cyril’s Moonlit Pond (1970) employ forcefully etched lines and areas of inked and uninked paper, which create strong, high contrast images. Haass, in particular, earned acclaim for her unusual techniques. Cyril had an active career in New York, participated in numerous group and solo shows and her work is held in major museums, yet her date of death remains unknown.

Émigré artists Margit Beck (b. Tokaj, Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Hungary, 1911–d. Great Neck, New York, 1997) and Yuli Blumberg (b. Kovno, Russian Empire, now Kaunas, Lithuania, 1894–d. New York, New York, 1964) both present Jewish subjects in an expressionistic style in their works included here, The Law Giver (ca. 1960) and Scholar in His Study (ca. 1948), respectively. Blumberg was an established artist prior to leaving Europe, having exhibited alongside such avant-garde Expressionists as Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1880) and Emile Nolde (1867–1956) before emigrating to the United States around 1924.

European artists Magdalena Rădulescu (b. Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania, 1902–d. Paris, France, 1983) and Suzanne Rodillon (b. city unknown, France, 1916–d. probably Paris, France, 1988) had varying degrees of success. Rădulescu spent much of her career in Paris, but is virtually unknown outside of Romania where she is celebrated. Rodillon, on the other hand, found substantial success in her native country and had her first solo exhibition in 1957 at Galleria del Naviglio in Milan, Italy. Rodillon’s Bird (1958) was painted as her career was just taking off. However, in 1966, for reasons that remain unclear, Rodillon abruptly closed her studio and stopped painting. She died in obscurity in 1988.

Nadia Gould (b. Strasbourg, France, 1929–d. New York, New York, 2007), Lila Katzen (b. Brooklyn, New York, 1925–d. New York, New York, 1998), Edith Simonds (b. Queens, New York, 1901–d. Manhasset, New York, 1987), and Elsa Schachter (b. probably New York, New York, 1911 or 1912–d. Maplewood, New Jersey, 1971) are represented by abstract works that explore the emotive potential of color and composition.

Anne Tabachnick (b. Derby, Connecticut, 1927–d. New York, New York, 1995), Lee Hall (b. Lexington, North Carolina, 1934–d. Northampton, Massachusetts, 2017) and Mildred Mermin (b. New York, New York, 1907–d. Palm Beach, Florida, 1985) utilize color and form to evoke moods and associations in semi-abstract, stylized landscapes. Tabachnick’s Trees and Grass (ca. 1980s) suggests a scene in tension with the observable world and pure expression. In a review of Tabachnick’s last solo exhibition in 2015, Tim Keane of Hyperallergic wrote: “ . . . Tabachnick has long been one of the many New York School painters relegated to a minor role by art historians.”

Header image: Nadia Gould (b. Strasbourg, France, 1929–d. New York, New York, 2007), Playful Sunshine, ca. 1964, acrylic on board, 15 x 20 1/8 in. HHAR 1735.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

F11: Digital Paintings for Full Screen

Going Live on April 11: A Virtual Exhibition at DerfnerOnline.org/F11

Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its first virtual exhibition, F11: Digital Paintings for Full Screen, on view April 11­–August 8, 2021. A virtual opening reception with the artists will be held on Zoom on Sunday, April 11, at 12 p.m. EST. This event is free and open to the public. Register at f11digitalpaintings.eventbrite.com. The exhibition will go live on April 11 at DerfnerOnline.org/f11.

“F11” refers to the function key that opens full screen viewing in most internet browsers. In the Covid-era when many art spaces are closed or open at limited capacity, online exhibitions have become ubiquitous. Such experiences include galleries that have been painstakingly photographed and recreated into 360-degree navigable spaces, fictional rendered environments where artwork has been “installed” virtually, social media as a curation space and websites that feature high-resolution images to showcase artworks that exist as physical objects. “F11” inverts these practices: It features digital paintings best exhibited in a purely virtual space where the optimal way of viewing the work is on-screen.

The 10 artists in this exhibition live and work in different places in the United States and internationally. They employ distinct digital strategies to create their works, which are linked by the exhibition’s conceptual framework, not thematically. The exhibition examines the significance of digital painting in this moment, especially when reliance on screens is more prevalent than ever before.

Carlos Torres Machado began exploring digital painting during the pandemic while working from home. Referring to his work as “extremes of rigorous geometry and lyrical abstraction,” his compositions explore the organization of social and technological information through pattern and complex color combinations. This is evident in his Data Centers series (2015–present), which began as large-scale polyptychs that Machado developed into digital paintings. Using Photoshop, he experimented with new structures and forms while maintaining the core color relationships that underpin his work.

Like many of the artists in the exhibition, Elaine Chao begins with a physical object to develop her digital compositions. She takes photographs of her acrylic paintings applied to cardboard and encased in gloss gel and then transfers them to Photoshop where she “excavates” layers of paint, enhancing particular sections of color and texture to create animated .gifs. The series Moving Image (2019), featured here, is a collection of animated paintings that explore complex color combinations and light through digital manipulation. Chao is the only artist represented by animated abstract paintings, engaging the core concept of the exhibition of digital works that are best exhibited on-screen.

Polina Protsenko also develops her digital abstractions with traditional media, beginning each work with mostly monochromatic color swatches she paints in watercolor on paper. Photographs of these images are transferred to the computer and collaged, rotated and manipulated in Photoshop, resulting in ethereal abstract works. Protsenko describes watercolor painting as “natural and fluid,” an art-making process that is partially out of her hands. Digital art, on the other hand, provides a tightly controlled format with which to explore purely formal concerns of color and composition. An interdisciplinary artist, this body of work is her first foray into digital painting, which she began during the pandemic.

Samhita Kamisetty’s richly colored digital paintings explore how physical spaces and the seemingly mundane objects within them can be emotionally transformative and acquire symbolic meanings. The private domestic interiors depicted in her paintings are based on her home in Bangalore, India, chosen for associations with comfort. Starting with an underdrawing in permanent marker on paper, Kamisetty digitally paints over the drawing in Photoshop and applies texture effects to create the final work. The flat compositions saturated with color and populated with elaborate patterns comprised of flowers, fruit, leaves and insects create a joyful, lively atmosphere.

The three works by Adam Blitz are part of his 2018 project Digital Apamea, an attempt to reconstruct the lost mosaic floor of a fourth-century synagogue at Apamea on Orontes in Syria. The digital works were constructed using such available sources as mosaic fragments, black and white photographs and comparisons with similar mosaic color schemes in Syria, Turkey and Italy. The artist refers to the resulting works as “fictions” since the available historical information is incomplete and he uses archaeological methods to complete them. For the final works, Blitz used a variety of tools in Photoshop to manipulate color, texture and shape.

Collin Pollard’s work centers around the relationship between the physical world and its depiction within the digital realm, particularly the vastness of digital space itself. During the pandemic, only a screen could provide a look into the outside world, which was otherwise impossible to reach physically. His paintings are derived from computer screenshots of glitches that appeared in YouTube travel videos he watched. They reflect on the stagnancy of the on-screen experience—the irony of being able to access the boundless space that digital technology has to offer while simultaneously being confined to a limited physical space. Pollard created these digital paintings by collaging high-resolution photographs of his own mark-making in acrylic paint or marker and screenshots of glitches, resulting in frenetic compositions with geometric shards of color.

Luise Eru also utilizes digital collage as part of his practice and has been using Photoshop exclusively since 2019. He incorporates found photographs enriched by layers of color, resulting in striking images that highlight the conditions of political chaos, poverty, marginalization and violence that Black people endure in his home country of Brazil. He describes his compositions as images of beauty that disrupt violence while retaining the aesthetic richness that Black culture and skin carry. His work is explicitly personal and lyrically emotional, reflecting on gender constructs of masculinity, childhood memories and familial traditions.

Donald Hargrove’s lush landscapes are rendered with painterly strokes, textures and subtle color gradations. Working from photographs, sketches executed both digitally and on paper, pure imagination or en plein air, Hargrove approaches digital art the same way as traditional painting, describing it as working with “pixels rather than paint.” He began exploring the medium for the first time during the pandemic after a long period of inactivity, describing working in a digital format as “reviving my own creativity but also my identity as an artist.”

Annie Lee is represented by a series of three abstract digital paintings entitled Smudges and Dust (2020) that ruminate on the unorthodox experience of earning a practical art degree online and the reliance upon screens to replace the physical classroom experience. Lee began exploring this concept by focusing on human marks left behind on the screens—smartphones, tablets, computers—that have become a necessity of every day life during the pandemic. Inspired by the dusty, grimy screen of her own laptop, the monochromatic blackness of these works is accented with impressions of fingerprint smudges. The paintings question where the boundary of digital and physical space lies and invite viewers to reflect on their own marks left behind on devices that are constantly swiped, touched and tapped when activating digital space.

Executed directly onto a tablet with a stylus, Stefanie Wolfson’s Plant Portraits series depicts plants that commonly appear in social media posts, particularly on Instagram, and are associated with a trendy design aesthetic popularized by social media influencers. The species depicted in Wolfson’s digital paintings represent some of the most overused plants that help the Instagrammer or Vlogger achieve a desired atmosphere to boost follower counts. Her project emphasizes the shallowness of social media’s fixation on keeping up with trends and reliance on superficial metrics of success.  Wolfson’s portraits also touch on the damaging impact that over-consumption of these plants has on the environment.

Header image: Collin Pollard (b. San Jose, California, 1994; lives and works in San Jose), Sandstorm, 2021, digitally manipulated computer screenshot collaged with abstracted pixels in Photoshop, 6000 x 7200 pixels. Courtesy the artist.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Impressions of Eastern Europe: Prints from the Permanent Collection

On view February 23–May 10, 2020
Click here to read the exhibition brochure online

Ilya Schor (b. Złoczów, Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Zolochiv, Ukraine, 1904–d. New York, 1961), Jewish Wedding, 1950s, wood engraving with hand coloring, 8 15/16 x 12 in. (22.7 x 30.5 cm). Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, Gift of Estelle Reingold, HHAR 6354. © Mira Schor. Reproduced with Permission.

Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, Impressions of Eastern Europe: Prints from the Permanent Collection, on view in the Derfner Judaica Museum from February 23–May 10, 2020. 

Rahel Szalit-Marcus (b. Kovno, Russian Empire, now Kaunas, Lithuania, 1894–d. Auschwitz, 1942), The child is pushed out of the cart barefoot. . . , from Fischke the Lame (Fischke der Krumme), 1922, lithograph, 9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in. (24.1 x 18.4 cm). Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, Gift of Sigmund R. Balka, 08.07.12.

The exhibition includes lithographs, etchings, engravings and woodcuts by 16 artists who were participants in some of the most significant art movements of the 20th century. They worked at a time of rapid change, including urbanization, secularization, industrial and technological innovation, and seismic political and cultural shifts. Their genre scenes, folk tale illustrations, portraits and character studies evoke nostalgia for a communal past, solemn awareness of the fragility of life and deep reverence for tradition.

Most of the artists included here were born in far reaches of the Austrian or Russian Empires and sought to make their careers in the major art capitals of Europe: Vienna, Munich, Berlin and Paris. Some found settled lives and success, such as Isidor Kaufmann (1853–1921), who was born in Arad, Hungary, then in the Austrian Empire (now in Romania), and studied art in Budapest and Vienna, where he maintained a studio. From a family seeking to escape anti-Semitism, violence and poverty, Bialystok-born Max Weber (1881–1961) found refuge in New York City as a child during the period of mass immigration to the US at the turn of the 20th century. A student of Henri Matisse in Paris, he helped to introduce Cubism to America.

Jakob Steinhardt (b. Zerkow, Germany, now Poland, 1887–d. Israel, 1968), Job 2, 1914, etching, 6 5/16 x 4 1/4 in. (16 x 10.8 cm). Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, Gift of Sylvia and Tom Rogers, 09.02.03.

Almost all of these artists experienced multiple migrations in their lifetimes. During the Holocaust, from 1933–1945, Jewish artists faced life-threatening circumstances, forced into exile, but not always finding safety. Rahel Szalit-Marcus (1894–1942), who spent her childhood in Lodz, Poland, and later died in Auschwitz, found success in 1920s Berlin illustrating Yiddish tales by Mendele Moykher-Sforim and Sholem Aleichem. Only one of the artists in this exhibition, Belorussian Anatoli Kaplan (1902–1980), who settled in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), remained in Russia, where he created rare works with Jewish subject matter, such as The Little Goat (1958–1961).

Several artists immigrated to Israel, including Jakob Steinhardt (1887–1968) and Albert Dov Sigal (1912–1970), one before and the other after the Holocaust, and another was born there, Emanuel Schary (1924–1994), though he immigrated to the US to pursue professional opportunities as an artist.

Anatoli Kaplan (b. Rogachev, Belorussia, Russian Empire, now Rohachow, Belarus, 1902–d. Leningrad, USSR, now Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1980), Verse 7: Came an Ox and Drank the Water, from The Little Goat, 1958–1961, lithograph, 14 x 10 1/2 in. (35.6 x 26.7 cm). Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, HHAR 1497.

Sigal’s series of prints of the Cyprus detention camp (1948) provides glimpses of daily life in the British-run internment camp where he was imprisoned with his family while trying to immigrate illegally to Palestine in late 1947 after surviving the War in Europe.

Stylistically, the prints in this exhibition reflect the influence of 19th-century art movements, including Naturalism and Realism and avant-garde experiments of the 20th century, such as Expressionism and Cubism. For some, naive or folk art-inspired modes of representation—for example, in the work of modern artists like Ilya Schor (1904–1961)—were well suited to convey the simplicity and piety of the Old World while masking the trauma of forced migration and genocide.

As Jews in 19th- and early 20th-century Europe moved away from traditional communities, Jewish artists became increasingly nostalgic. This was particularly true for artists who were removed geographically from their origins in Belorussia, Ukraine, Moldova, Hungary, Galicia, and other areas. Artists like Hermann Struck (1876–1944), who was born and lived in cosmopolitan Berlin, was especially drawn to the Ostjuden, traditional Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jews, who were regarded as emblems of authenticity.

Friedrich (Bedřich) Feigl (b. Prague, Bohemia, now Czech Republic, 1884–d. London, 1965), Hear Israel, 1921, woodcut, 6 13/16 x 5 1/2 in. (17.3 x 14 cm). Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, U.239.

Struck was a master of various graphic techniques and taught other artists, including Steinhardt. During WWI, Struck served on the Eastern Front and became acquainted with the plight of Jews in Eastern Europe suffering anti-Semitism and pogroms, whom he then depicted in his prints. Steinhardt was a cofounder of Die Pathetiker, a German Expressionist artists’ group. One of his etchings, Job (1914), portrays the suffering of the biblical figure in an angular Expressionist style with an almost apocalyptic energy. Hear Israel (1921), a woodcut by the Prague-born avant-garde Czech printmaker and painter Friedrich (Bedřich) Feigl (1884–1965), has a similar intensity.

Throughout history, prints have been an effective means of disseminating art and ideas to a broad public. The present exhibition underscores the impact the movements and upheavals of the 20th century had on Jewish artists and the power of the print medium to communicate their experiences. At a time when mass migrations, detentions, deportations, displacements and ongoing humanitarian crises continue to occur on a global scale, such endeavors remain urgently relevant today.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Additional exhibition support provided by

Leonard Freed: Israel Magazine 1967–1968

September 15, 2019–January 5, 2020
Click here to read the catalogue online

Leonard Freed, Jerusalem, Israel, 1967, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Estate of Leonard Freed.

Leonard Freed: Israel Magazine 1967–1968 includes 50 black and white photographs from Freed’s estate, many of which were reproduced in Israel Magazine, where Freed was the staff photographer. This is the first exhibition to examine this period of Freed’s work and the context in which these images were published.

Leonard Freed, Tel Aviv, Israel, 1968, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Estate of Leonard Freed.

Freed had been living in Amsterdam for a decade when war broke out between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in June 1967. In response to this news, he made his way to Israel and over the next two years spent 15 months living in the country, covering the aftermath of what came to be known as the Six-Day War. In 1968, his wife, Brigitte, and young daughter, Elke Susannah, joined Freed and they settled in Tel Aviv where Brigitte at first borrowed Micha Bar Am’s darkroom to print Freed’s negatives as she often did throughout her husband’s career.

The first issue of Israel Magazine appeared in late 1967. Dozens of Freed’s images from 1967 and 1968, and a few from an earlier trip, his first, in 1962—mostly in black and white, but occasionally in color—appeared in all but three of the issues in the first volume. Freed’s photographs continued to be reproduced in later issues, which came out irregularly in the magazine’s early years, including the first issue of volume two in 1969. The latter was a special picture issue featuring 150 photographs, mostly by Freed and Bar Am. The magazine ceased publication in 1976.

Israel Magazine was conceived of in Amsterdam as a joint Israeli-American venture between the Philadelphia-based Israel Publishing Company and Spotlight Publications in Tel Aviv. The editor was Maurice Carr, a nephew of the Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, also a contributor. In addition to covering economic, political and military matters, the magazine featured short stories, poetry, theatre, visual art and book reviews, and cartoons by Dosh.

Leonard Freed, Jerusalem, Israel, 1967, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Estate of Leonard Freed.

Responding to an increased interest in Israel in the wake of the war, the magazine sought “to serve as an enduring bridge between Israel and [the] Diaspora” while being independent, eschewing propaganda and bringing to Jews and non-Jews “as vivid, as truthful an image of Israel as possible.” At the same time, the magazine supported the State of Israel and celebrated its diverse Jewish population, its strides in scientific research and contributions to developing countries, including its neighbors in Africa and Asia, and efforts on behalf of its own economy. It also encouraged secular and religious tourism.

Freed’s images of everyday life on the kibbutz, in Arab homes, among religious Jews, Christian communities and clergy, in refugee camps, in factories and on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv accompanied stories tied to a particular theme in each issue. Freed’s photographs of Israel were part of a larger humanistic project. They reflect his particular connection to Israel and to Jewish suffering, as well as his empathy for others whose experiences were different from his own. Some of Freed’s images from Israel Magazine were also exhibited in The Concerned Photographer, organized by Cornell Capa at the Riverside Museum in New York in 1967, which included Freed and five other photographers—Werner Bischof; Capa’s late brother, Robert; Andre Kértész; David Seymour; and Dan Weiner. They were also in another exhibition Capa organized at The Jewish Museum, New York, Israel: The Reality, in 1969, and later included by Freed in his book, Danse des fidèles (Dance of the Faithful), published in France in 1984.

About the photographer

Leonard Freed, Jerusalem, Israel, 1967, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Estate of Leonard Freed.

Leonard Freed was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrant parents from Minsk, now in Belarus. From 1948–52, he studied and worked as a graphic designer, before traveling through Europe and North Africa from 1952–1954. While in Paris in 1953 he began taking photographs and discovered the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He acquired his first Leica, the camera he would use for the rest of his life, second-hand in Cologne. After his return to New York in 1954, he documented Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 1956 and 1957 he traveled and photographed in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, including the Jewish community in post-War Amsterdam, where he had recently settled.

In 1958, Freed married Brigitte Klück, whom he had met in Rome in 1956. Their daughter, Elke Susannah Freed, was born in 1959. Around this time Freed began to exhibit his photographs, including in a group exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. In 1961 he photographed Jewish communities in Germany and made his first trip to Israel the following year. In 1963 he photographed the historic March on Washington, beginning a long term project that focused on African Americans during the civil rights era. While based in the Netherlands, he continued to travel in Europe, the US, and Israel and then settled with his family in New York in 1970.

Freed became a member of the international photographers’ cooperative agency Magnum Photos in 1972. During the next several decades, until his death in 2006, his assignments brought him to countries in Europe and Africa, as well as to Israel, India, Iraq and Brazil. His work appeared in such publications as Fortune, Life, Look, The New York Times Magazine, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, and Paris Match, among others. He also published 10 books of his photographs. Freed has exhibited widely and his photographs are in the permanent collections of the Jewish Museum, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of the City of New York, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

From the Eastern Bloc to the Bronx: Early Acquisitions from The Art Collection

On view May 5–August 25, 2019
Click to read the catalogue online here

Oscar Rabin (Russian, 1928–2018), Cats Under Crescent Moon, 1963, oil on canvas, 35 ½ x 43 ½ inches, Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, HHAR 1076

Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, From the Eastern Bloc to the Bronx: Early Acquisitions from The Art Collection, on view in the Derfner Judaica Museum from May 5–August 25, 2019.

The exhibition is part of the Derfner Judaica Museum’s 10th Anniversary celebration, which will include several events and activities throughout the summer.

From the Eastern Bloc to the Bronx tells the fascinating story of how the Grosvenor Gallery in London promoted artists from Eastern Bloc countries and came to play a central role in shaping the Hebrew Home Art Collection. Some of the first works acquired for The Art Collection were by artists who were included in solo and group exhibitions at the Gallery, which was founded in 1960 by the American sociologist Eric Estorick (1913–1993). Estorick was instrumental in efforts by the Hebrew Home’s former executive director Jacob Reingold (1916–1999), with the support of a few key donors, to establish The Art Collection in the 1970s. His gallery created a niche for the exhibition of Eastern Bloc artists in the 1960s when art from “behind the Iron Curtain” was largely unseen and unknown by Western audiences. Living and working during the height of the Cold War in the Soviet Socialist Republics of Armenia and Russia and satellite states Hungary and Czechoslovakia (today the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic), most of these artists were rarely, if ever, exhibited in the West.

Mariam Aslamazian (Armenian, 1907–2006), Collective Farm Abundance, 1962, oil on canvas, 34 x 54 inches, Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, HHAR 3009

This exhibition features works by 35 artists who participated in nine key exhibitions that took place at Grosvenor Gallery between 1961–1967, before the Hebrew Home began to acquire the artwork about a decade later. Today, some of these artists have well established reputations internationally or in their home countries, or both. For example, Soviet dissident artist Oscar Rabin (1928–2018), founder of the Nonconformist movement and exiled to Paris in 1978, has been the subject of several major exhibitions and a documentary film; eminent Slovak artist Vincent Hložník (1919–1997), founder of the highly influential Department of Graphic Art and Illustration at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, will have a major retrospective at the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, in 2020; and the work of Mariam Aslamazian (1907–2006) is on permanent view at a museum in Gyumri, Armenia, dedicated to the artist and her sister.

Grosvenor Gallery’s initial exhibition of Eastern Bloc artists, entitled Lithographs by Twenty-seven Soviet Artists, took place in 1961, and proved to be Estorick’s first success in obtaining permission to export Soviet artwork to the West. The exhibition featured Russian printmakers from the Leningrad Experimental Graphics Laboratory (LEGL), a workshop that included master lithographers who used the medium to create intricate images with complex color palettes. Prints by ten artists from that show, Boris Ermolaev (1903–1982), Grigory Izrailevich (1924–1999), Anatoli Kaplan (1902–1980), Vera Matiukh (1910–2003), Gerta Nemenova (1905–1986), Alexander Shenderov (1897–1967), Mikhail Skouliari (1905–1985), Vladimir Sudakov (1912–1994), Alexander Vedernikov (1898–1975) and Alexandra Yakobson (1903–1966), are among the works later acquired for The Art Collection that are on view in the present exhibition. The London exhibition garnered enough commercial and critical success that it was remounted (with work by all but two of the original artists) in New York City later that same year.  Subsequently, The Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired prints by five of the artists, including Ermolaev, Kaplan, Nemenova, Shenderov and Vedernikov.

Anatoli Kaplan (Russian, 1902–1980), Dedication Page, from The Little Goat, 1961, lithograph, 24 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches, Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, HHAR 285

Following the LEGL exhibition, Estorick mounted a large solo show of Kaplan at the end of 1961 entitled Anatoli Kaplan: The World of Sholem Aleichem and Other Scenes, Tales and Songs of Russian Provincial Life, which included 131 prints. Kaplan worked almost exclusively on Jewish themes and was widely collected both privately and by museums, including The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the 1960s. He was of particular interest to Estorick, who expanded some of his print editions exclusively for Grosvenor Gallery, including The Little Goat (1958–1961), a song from the Passover liturgy. Two of The Little Goat prints and three of his other lithographs are on view in the current exhibition. Six portfolios of different print series by Kaplan along with four paintings by the Russian Jewish painter Solomon Gershov (1906–1989), who appeared in a two-person exhibition with Kaplan in 1967, were the first works acquired by Hebrew Home from Grosvenor Gallery in 1975. These selections likely reflected Estorick’s and Reingold’s shared interest in promoting Jewish artists working under oppressive conditions.

The Gallery held a major retrospective of the master Russian printmaker Vladimir Favorsky (1886–1964) in 1962. Titled Favorsky, it included linocut prints from the artist’s Samarkand series (1942–1944) realized during the artist’s evacuation to Uzbekistan during World War II, among other works from his long career. Three of these rare prints on view depict scenes from everyday life of the Uzbek people among their caravans and camels.

Richard Fremund (Czech, 1928–1969), Easter Landscape (Velikonocni Krajina), 1963, oil on canvas, 35 x 45 1/2 inches, Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, HHAR 1276

The Gallery celebrated its move to a larger space in 1963 with the group show, First Image: Painting and Sculpture by Artists of the Gallery, which included Czech artist Richard Fremund (1928–1969), who is represented in the current exhibition by two abstract townscape paintings, Easter Landscape (1963) and Blue Landscape (1957). Today, Fremund is frequently shown in galleries in the Czech Republic and his paintings held in private collections. Also included in First Image were Hungarian artists Gyula Konfár (1933–2008) and Mihály Schéner (1923–2009), who went on to have a two-person exhibition the following year. Gyula Konfár, Mihály Schéner: Two Contemporary Hungarian Artists, mounted in 1964, featured 52 paintings. Two works from that show were later acquired for The Art Collection and are included in the present exhibition: Konfár’s White Cottages, Red Roofs and Schéner’s

Mihály Schéner (Hungarian, 1923–2009), Self-Portrait at Work, 1964, oil on board, 27 3/4 x 39 1/2 inches, Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, HHAR 2994

Self-Portrait at Work, both from 1964, which share a dark, expressionistic style.

One of Estorick’s most important exhibitions was Aspects of Contemporary Soviet Art, mounted in 1964, which featured paintings and works on paper. Estorick managed a cultural coup by obtaining permission to export paintings and drawings from the Soviet Union, a task with far greater obstacles than exporting lithographs as he had in 1961. As British art critic Nigel Gosling wrote for The Observer in 1964: “The show is a milestone. For the first time in 40 years Soviet paintings are exhibited for sale outside Russia.” The Hebrew Home owns 19 of the paintings that were included in Aspects of Contemporary Soviet Art, with selected works on view by Aslamazian, Alexander Dubinchik (1922–1997), Irina Fateeva (1908–1981), Moisey Feigen (1904–2008), Vladimir Gavrilov (1923–1970), Vladimir Gedikyan (b. 1928), Grigoriev (dates unknown), Mikhail Ivanov (1926–2000), Pavel Kuznetsov (1878–1968), Alexey Morosov (1896–1965), Anatoli Nikitch (1918–1994), Pyotr Ossovsky (1925–2015), Albert Papikian (1926–1997), Alexsei Pisarev (1909–1970), Igor Popov (1927–1999), Peter Shlikov (1917–1920), Galina Solovieva (1908-1984) and Leonid Zakharov (1928–1986).

Vincent Hložník (Slovak, 1919–1997), Untitled, from Dreams, 1962, linocut, 23 5/8 x 16 3/8 inches, Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection, HHAR 1407

Turning to Czechoslovak art, Vincent Hložník was a major solo show comprising paintings and graphics mounted in 1965. Hložník is represented in this exhibition by two linocuts from the series Dreams (1962), a cycle of surrealistic prints that caution about the horrors of war. While a student in Prague, he was present when the Germans occupied the city in 1939 and was dramatically impacted by the atrocities he witnessed. Hložník left a lasting legacy through his students and his humanistic approach to art continues to influence generations of Slovak graphic artists today. His work is on permanent view in galleries and museums in the Slovak Republic.

Rabin, founder of the Nonconformist movement in Moscow in the 1970s and a major international artist today, had his first solo exhibition in the West at Grosvenor Gallery in 1965. The two paintings that represent him in this exhibition, Cats Under Crescent Moon (1963) and Bread and Factory (1964), were included in the original Grosvenor show. Rabin was an organizer of the infamous “bulldozer exhibition” held outside Moscow in 1974. In an incident that became widely reported internationally, dissident artists who were prohibited from participating in official galleries mounted an exhibition in an empty lot that was brutally shut down by the Soviet authorities with water cannons and bulldozers. Exiled four years later and prevented from returning from a visit to Paris, where he remained until his death in 2018, Rabin and his family were abruptly stripped of their Soviet citizenship. His work is widely collected and held in both private and public collections, including the Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey, The Centre Pompidou, Paris, and The Kolodzei Collection, Highland Park, New Jersey, among others.

Solomon Gershov (Russian, 1906–1989), Tevye, ca. 1963–1964, oil on canvas, 25 x 26 1/2 inches, HHAR 40

One of the last exhibitions focused exclusively on Soviet Bloc artists, The World of Sholem Aleichem: Kaplan lithographs, Gershov paintings, was presented in 1967. It featured Kaplan’s portfolios alongside Gershov’s paintings. Gershov painted in an expressionistic style, often on Jewish themes, and was critical of Soviet art policies. He suffered harsh consequences for his views and was arrested twice, once in 1932 and again in 1948, and sent to the Gulag after having his work destroyed. He is represented by the painting Tevye (ca. 1963–64), an imaginary portrait of the protagonist of Aleichem’s series of short stories, Tevye the Milkman.

This exhibition highlights rare artworks in the Hebrew Home’s Art Collection, which has attracted researchers, curators and dignitaries from around the world, and also provides a fascinating glimpse into the modern art being created during the Cold War in the Eastern Bloc and how it was brought to the West’s attention by Eric Estorick. The Grosvenor Gallery’s focus on exhibitions of Eastern Bloc artists was concentrated in the period 1961–1967, according to the Gallery’s available records, and coincided with an ambitious general program of a dozen or more exhibitions each year. During this same period, the Gallery organized at least 80 or more exhibitions by other artists, mostly from Western Europe, in solo and group exhibitions. While he moved his focus away from Soviet Bloc artists after 1967, Estorick continued to include some of these artists in other broader, thematic group shows. Many works by Eastern Bloc artists remained in Gallery inventory beyond these critical years in the early to mid-1960s and were thus available for the Hebrew Home to acquire in the 1970s. Although Estorick died in 1993, the Grosvenor Gallery remains active in London to this day.

 

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Erosion: Works by Leonard Ursachi

On view July 15–January 6, 2019 in the Derfner Judaica Museum
Read the exhibition catalogue online
Leonard Ursachi, What a Wonderful World, 2018, carved Styrofoam covered with Styrocrete, pigments, non-toxic tar paint and 23-karat gold leaf, mounted on painted steel base, 9 feet high (with base) x 4 feet diameter. Courtesy of the artist.

In this exhibition featuring an outdoor sculpture, installation work, and related maquettes and drawings, Leonard Ursachi addresses themes of environmental and social crises caused by manmade events and reflects on how the destruction of natural resources is intimately interconnected with the effacement of human history and culture.

Central to the show will be a new outdoor sculpture created for the exhibition—an iteration of Ursachi’s What a Wonderful World series. The large-scale work is on view in the sculpture garden on the Hebrew Home’s majestic 32-acre property overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Carved in Styrofoam and covered in Styrocrete, pigments, non-toxic tar paint and 23-karat gold leaf, What a Wonderful World (2018) touches on the inextricable link between profitability and the destruction of the environment. The expanses of 23-karat gold leaf applied to the roughly textured, “tarred” oceans reference a global, often wealth-driven disregard for the impact of environmental choices. The continents, on the other hand, appear vast and devoid of life, signifying a stripping away of natural resources. Still, Ursachi’s vision implies hope: the sculpture’s egg shape may be read as the enduring, if fragile, potential for life. Inside the Museum will be a complementary display of drawings as well as maquettes in a variety of materials, including 23-karat gold, cast urethane resin, Styrofoam, concrete, cast aluminum and marble.

Also included in the exhibition is Ursachi’s installation Rise and Shine (2010), a multi-media work that addresses the disappearance of the Romanian island of Ada Kaleh, which was submerged in the Danube River in 1970 by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in order to build a hydroelectric plant.

Leonard Ursachi, What a Wonderful World, 2018, pigment, charcoal on rice paper, 20 ½ x 15 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Inside an aquarium-like receptacle, a model of the island cast from translucent urethane resin is lit from below, alternately drowned and resuscitated as water continuously rises and falls. Ursachi based the island’s form on Ada Kaleh, the rich history of which dates back at least four centuries, having been annexed at various times by the Habsburgs, Serbs and Ottomans. Under Communist Romania, Ada Kaleh was home to a vibrant Muslim community and such historic structures as the Ada Kaleh mosque (built in 1903 on the site of a former monastery), catacombs and bazaar. The island was a popular vacation destination during the Communist period, when Romania’s heavily-guarded and insular borders prevented its own citizens from leaving the country. Ursachi visited Ada Kaleh with his family in 1968, returning with the only souvenir available at the time—an officially stamped, government-issued postcard. A reproduction of this postcard and a photograph of the artist and his brother visiting Ada Kaleh as children are on view with Rise and Shine.

Rise and Shine addresses the disastrous effect such industrial projects have on human culture, displacing entire populations and literally washing away layers of history. The rise and fall of the water, which submerges and reveals the resin island, both engages environmental themes and reflects the unchecked destruction that can occur under tyranny. Ceaușescu’s rule was one of the most brutal in the Eastern Bloc, with his secret police force routinely torturing and imprisoning suspected dissenters and political enemies. Ursachi was arrested for attempting to escape Romania by swimming across the Danube—near the spot where Ada Kaleh once stood—to reach Yugoslavia in 1978. His second attempt to defect, in 1980, was successful, and he was granted political asylum in France where he spent five years. He came to the United States via Canada and settled in New York in 1987.

Leonard Ursachi, Rise and Shine, 2010, acrylic container, water, light, pumps, rusted steel base, cast resin, 60 x 72 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

According to Ursachi: “In contrast to the Communist grayness that muffled the rest of Romania, Ada Kaleh was an explosion of color and noise, and home to an active Muslim community that had settled there during the Ottoman Empire.”

This exhibition is mounted in conjunction with Wave Hill’s Ecological Consciousness: Artist as Instigator—a kind of laboratory setting for showcasing artist-led projects addressing ecological issues across New York City. A special collaborative program between Wave Hill and Derfner Judaica Museum entitled Neighbors Engaging the Environment will take place on August 5, 2018, between 1:30–4 p.m. Wave Hill Senior Curator Jennifer McGregor will give an informal tour of Wave Hill’s exhibition and Emily O’Leary, Associate Curator, will guide visitors through Erosion: Works by Leonard Ursachi. Shuttle service will depart from Wave Hill. The tour is included with general admission to the garden’s grounds. For more information, call 718.549.3200.

The artist (left) and his brother, Calin, on a family vacation to Ada Kaleh, 1968. Courtesy of the artist.

About the Artist
Leonard Ursachi is a Romanian-born artist. He grew up under a dictatorship from which he defected and spent years border-hopping before settling in New York. His work reflects our contemporary world of porous borders, vulnerable shelters, and mutating identities. His sculptures and installations use architectural references as tropes for systems that enclose and exclude, protect and reject. Ursachi’s work is often site-specific, with the physical, historical and cultural aspects of the site informing the artist’s concept and use of materials.

About Hebrew Home at Riverdale
As a member of the American Alliance of Museums, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health is committed to publicly exhibiting its art collection throughout its 32-acre campus, including the Derfner Judaica Museum and a sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. The Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection provides educational and cultural programming for residents of the Hebrew Home, their families and the general public from throughout New York City, its surrounding suburbs and visitors from elsewhere. RiverSpring Health is a nonprofit, non-sectarian geriatric organization serving more than 18,000 older adults in greater New York through its resources and community service programs. Museum hours: Sunday–Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Art Collection and grounds open daily, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Call 718.581.1596 for holiday hours and to schedule group tours.


This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Swords Into Ploughshares: Sculpture by Jay Moss

On view July 15–October 7, 2018
Read the exhibition catalogue online here
Jay Moss, Anzio, 2003, brass tubing, paper, sheet lead, 11 ¾ x 2 ¾ x 2/4 (open). Courtesy of the artist.

Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, Swords into Ploughshares: Sculpture by Jay Moss on view in the Pauline and William Goldfine Pavilion Lobby Gallery from July 15–October 7, 2018.

The exhibition includes 13 sculptures made between 1980 and 2012. Many of them reflect Moss’s experience on the front lines during WWII when he served as a combat engineer. Moss has worked for more than seven decades crafting sculptures that resonate with his experience of the horrors of war and his hope for a lasting peace. In these relief and tabletop works assembled with wood, metal, sheet lead, plastic and other materials, Moss addresses a range of social issues. Sometimes whimsical or ironic, they comment on such subjects as the corrupting influence of power and the treatment of prisoners from German prison camps to Guantanamo Bay.

Jay Moss, GI Joe, 2012, sheet lead, wood, 23 ¾ x 9 ½ inches. Courtesy of the artist.

In an assemblage that resembles an artillery shell, Anzio (2003), made from materials leftover from when he was a professional lamp designer, Moss has collaged mementos from his war experience: a letter from his mother, a patch spelling out A-N-Z-I-O, a photograph of the German howitzer that ran on a railroad track, currency from the occupation used in Italy and a photo of his brother. The work is titled after the beachhead where, despite being a combat engineer, as a newly arrived soldier he had to replace combat troops in a flooded foxhole in the winter of 1944.

Another work, GI Joe (2012), depicts a tall and lanky figure in relief, made up of fragments and with a skull-like face, at the ready with his helmet and rifle. Moss’s unit arrived in Europe on August 15, 1944, for Operation Dragoon—the Allied invasion of Southern France. Months later, not far from the front, in the forests of the Vosges Mountains, Moss built what were called corduroy roads—“trees that they knock down to make a roadway so it’s very bumpy to the front,” he has explained. That’s when he saw dead soldiers on the back of an open track—a traumatic memory that lingers to this day and which Moss has said is the “essence of the front for me.”

Jay Moss, The Prisoner, 1991, mahogany, sheet lead, cotton cloth, 33 1/4 x 12 3/4 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

During those final months of the war, thousands of enemy soldiers were captured. That time is reflected in The Prisoner (1991), a carved wood piece with a hand-drawn and painted bandana covering the eyes. The base of the head is carved wood covered with sheet metal, a material the artist frequently employs and which is soft and malleable, ready to be hammered or molded.

About the artist

Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1923, to immigrant parents—Isadore Moskowitz, a clothing maker and store owner born in Russia, and Josephine Goldsmith Moskowitz, who was born in Romania—Jay Moss attended the High School of Industrial Art (later the High School of Art and Design), where he studied graphic arts, three-dimensional design, display and studio drawing. The family first lived over the tailor shop and later moved to Flatbush and Greenpoint before settling in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Moss was drafted into the army in 1943 after working as a page at CBS, and trained as a combat engineer in Fort Belvoir, VA. His unit, the 36th Engineer Regiment, traveled through North Africa before arriving in early 1944 at Anzio, a key campaign of the Allied forces on the Italian coast. After Italy, he was stationed in Marseille and on the French front in the Vosges Mountains on the eastern border with Germany.

Jay Moss, Oscar for Torturers, 2009, sheet lead, acrylic, fiber chord, 34 ½ x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Moss attended the Art Students League as a benefit of the GI Bill, studying under José de Creeft, Morris Kantor and M. Peter Piening. A mahogany head he carved while a student at the League was exhibited at Jacques Seligmann & Company in 1947. Moss also received a sculpture prize at the Nassau County Art Association in the 1960s. He was head of NBC television’s art department where he worked for 12 years and then was the owner-designer of a company that made decorative mirrors and wall pieces. After selling the company, he worked as a design consultant and lighting product designer. He also taught lighting product design at the Parsons School of Design and television graphic arts at the RCA Institute. All the while, he worked at his passion, sculpting in the basement studio of his family’s Long Island home and at their second home in Stockbridge, MA. Moss has worked both figuratively and abstractly, creating forms using a table saw and chiseling a variety of woods that he then assembles with other materials, including lead, metal and cloth.

Moss has had two previous solo exhibitions, at Manhattan College in 2014 and the Historic Wells Gallery in Lenox, MA, in 2001.

In 2008 he and his wife, Sabina, who have two sons, moved to Riverdale, where Moss continues his artistic practice.

About Hebrew Home at Riverdale

As a member of the American Alliance of Museums, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health is committed to publicly exhibiting its art collection throughout its 32-acre campus, including the Derfner Judaica Museum and a sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. The Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection provides educational and cultural programming for residents of the Hebrew Home, their families and the general public from throughout New York City, its surrounding suburbs and visitors from elsewhere. RiverSpring Health is a nonprofit, non-sectarian geriatric organization serving more than 18,000 older adults in greater New York through its resources and community service programs. Museum hours: Sunday–Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Art Collection and grounds open daily, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Call 718.581.1596 for holiday hours and to schedule group tours, or for further information, visit our website at https://rslarchive1222.wpengine.com/art

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Jerusalem Between Heaven and Earth

On view January 28–May 27, 2018
Read the exhibition catalogue here

Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce Jerusalem Between Heaven and Earth, jointly organized with the Jewish Art Salon and guest curator Ori Z. Soltes for the 2017 Jerusalem Biennale, which will be on view at the Derfner Judaica Museum from January 28–May 27, 2018. 

Tobi Kahn, RHYVA, from the AKHV series, 2016, acrylic on wood, 9 x 12 x 2 in. Courtesy of the artist
Tobi Kahn, RHYVA, from the AKHV series, 2016, acrylic on wood, 9 x 12 x 2 in. Courtesy of the artist.

The Jewish Art Salon’s exhibition was one of 26 exhibitions and projects from around the world that occupied multiple venues in Jerusalem this past fall. The Derfner Judaica Museum is honored to bring this exhibition to New York for its only US showing. Jerusalem Between Heaven and Earth includes 34 works by 30 artists who explore this year’s Biennale theme of “watershed.” According to Ram Ozeri, its Director and Founder, “The Jerusalem Biennale provides a stage for professional artists—from secular to ultra-Orthodox—who refer in their artwork to Jewish thought, spirit, tradition or experience.” The recent Biennale threw “a spotlight onto the concept of watershed, examining it from a literal, metaphorical and even historical perspective,” he elaborated. “The theme finds its expression in issues as varied as Jewish identity, immigration and refugees, alongside watershed moments in history. . . . Both in Hebrew (kav parashat hamayim) and in English, watershed is used to describe an important turning point—an event that changed the course of history.”

Ori Z. Soltes has taken the watershed theme and interpreted it with his selection of works by artists from the US, Israel, the UK and the Netherlands. According to Soltes, “A watershed yields a branching, be it of physical terrain, historical events or spiritual and aesthetic concepts. Such an idea is particularly powerful in conjunction with the city of Jerusalem” where “the spiritual foundations. . . branch in three Abrahamic directions. . . .”

Watershed ideas extend from Jerusalem’s topography to moments that shape history and thought—to contemporary aesthetics and politics. In the exhibition, paintings by Tobi Kahn and a video by Leah Caroline and Jeremy S-Horseman offer abstract suggestions of the geological watershed that helps define Jerusalem. In her video, Sarah Lightman turns that topography inward toward life’s profound watershed moments.

Yona Verwer and Katarzyna Kozera, The Book of Yona 5, 2017, acrylic paint, digital painting collage on canvas with augmented reality, 36 x 24 in.
Yona Verwer and Katarzyna Kozera, The Book of Yona 5, 2017, acrylic paint, digital painting collage on canvas with augmented reality, 36 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artists.

Joel Silverstein’s painting Promised Land—here the beach at Coney Island—is a reference to biblical Israel and to the American Jewish immigrant experience. Richard McBee’s painting Exodus Redux suggests watershed moments of the biblical Exodus that pushed the Israelites toward Sinai and from there toward Jerusalem and the building of Solomon’s Temple. Solomon is traditionally discussed as the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, explored in Ellen Holzblatt’s paintings. Gabriela Boros considers the watershed warnings to the Israelite-Judeans by the Prophet Isaiah. The universal message of the Book of Jonah is the focus of Yona Verwer and Katarzyna Kozera, of Jan Lauren Greenfeld and of Alan Hobscheid. The tradition of rabbinic commentary is encountered through works by Rachel Kanter, Beth Krensky and Ben Schachter. From there the mystical strains of Judaism emerge in Susan Schwalb’s small, tight abstractions. In Carol Buchman’s work the mystical and geological become panentheistic: the Name of God suffuses nature.

Mark Podwal, 1492, 2005, etching, 17 x 14 in. Courtesy of the artist.
Mark Podwal, 1492, 2005, etching, 17 x 14 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Away from the sacred city, Jewish history and thought seek a return to Jerusalem—particularly at harsh watershed diaspora moments. Mark Podwal’s 1492 references the Expulsion from Spain; Billha Zussman imagines how that external watershed has internal consequences; Archie Rand offers cutting edge—watershed—visual references to the Shoah or Holocaust.

Jerusalem also reaches into Islam and Christianity. Siona Benjamin’s work reflects her background as a Jewish woman from predominantly Hindu and Muslim India, now living in the US. In Exodus #5, one from a series of paintings that considers the current wide-spread refugee crisis, she interweaves that issue with an exploration of how PaRDeS (as a Jewish, and particularly a Jewish mystical concept) intersects the equivalent Islamic concept of Jannat.  In her abstract monoprint, Miriam Stern reimagines the Christian vision of the Hebrew Bible depicted in the Morgan Library’s 14th-century French illuminated manuscript known as the Crusader Bible.

Jane Logemann, Water-Hebrew/Water-Arabic, 2017, ink and oil on muslin, 30 ¼ x 19 1/8 in. Courtesy of the artist.
Jane Logemann, Water-Hebrew/Water-Arabic, 2017, ink and oil on muslin, 30 ¼ x 19 1/8 in. Courtesy  of the artist.

Contemporary Jerusalem offers Aviva Shemer’s installation of suspended Hebrew, Arabic and Latin (English) letters, inspired by Martin Buber’s discussion of Jerusalem as a center of Am ve’Olam (A People and the World); Jane Logemann’s frenetic Hebrew and Arabic repetitions of the word “water” transform into abstract images. In her painting, Leah Raab imagines the Valley of Tears, the site of a massive assault in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War. In two photographs, Dorit Jordan Dotan focuses on the crisis of Israeli-Palestinian water-sharing and the geological processes at work separating water from salt at the Atlit salt flats. Bruria Finkel turns the issue of potable and salt water back toward the geology of Jerusalem. Yehudis Barmatz-Harris turns water to fire as history moves back from the crucible of Jerusalem’s return to Jewish hands to the purification process of the Israelites in the wilderness and the burning of the Red Heifer. Pamela Fingerhut returns viewers to the moment when Moses is placed in the Nile, in this case by a modern day Miriam. Elaine Langermann’s mixed media work, Poem/Painting #11—“Watershed,” combines image and text to ask what art is and where we move forward, intersecting the questions: what is Jewish art? And what is Judaism? Both of these are suffused by questions—like the city of Jerusalem itself.

ABOUT THE CURATOR

Ori Z. Soltes teaches theology, philosophy and art history at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. For seven years, Dr. Soltes was Director and Chief Curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, where he created over 80 exhibitions focusing on aspects of history, ethnography and contemporary art. He has also curated diverse contemporary and historical art exhibitions at other sites, nationally and internationally. As Director of the National Jewish Museum he co-founded the Holocaust Art Restitution Project and has spent nearly 20 years researching and consulting on the issue of Nazi-plundered art.

Dr. Soltes has lectured at dozens of museums across the country, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has been interviewed for a score of programs on archaeological, religious, art, literary and historical topics on CNN, the History Channel and Discovery Channel. Nearly 250 publications—books, articles and catalogue essays—have included, among others: Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture and Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the Twentieth Century. OriZSoltes.com

ABOUT JEWISH ART SALON 

The Jewish Art Salon is the largest, most-recognized Jewish visual art organization in the world. It is a global network of contemporary Jewish art. The Salon provides important programs and resources, and develops lasting partnerships with the international art community and the general public.

The Jewish Art Salon presents public events in the US and Israel, and produces art projects with international art institutions. Since 2008 the Jewish Art Salon has organized dozens of art exhibits and events exploring Jewish themes, related to current issues. In the New York area it hosts occasional salon sessions with international artists and scholars. JewishArtSalon.com

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Chuck Fishman: Roots, Resilience and Renewal—A Portrait of Polish Jews, 1975–2016

On view September 17, 2017–January 7, 2018

Click here to read the exhibition brochure text

Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale, in conjunction with Jewish Studies at Fordham University, is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, Chuck Fishman: Roots, Resilience and Renewal—A Portrait of Polish Jews, 1975–2016, on view at the Derfner Judaica Museum from September 17, 2017–January 7, 2018.

Chuck Fishman, Participants in the fifth annual March of Remembrance, commemorating the 74th anniversary of the first massive deportation to the extermination camp in Treblinka from the Warsaw Ghetto, passing the Anielewicza tram stop, named after Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the first armed action of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Warsaw2016. © Chuck Fishman www.chuckfishman.com

The exhibition includes 36 black and white photographs made during multiple trips Fishman took to Poland over a period of more than 40 years, first as a young college student and later as a professional photojournalist. He first traveled to Poland in the summer of 1975 during the Communist era, accompanied by a writer, in search of what remained of Jewish life and culture in a country that Jews had inhabited for 1000 years, a once-vibrant community whose history and legacy lay on the brink of extinction.

Chuck Fishman, Ludwik Berlinski (left) and Maurycy Jam (right) leaving the Remu Synagogue after the last Saturday service of 1978. Krakow, December 1978. © Chuck Fishman

What Fishman found were synagogues, locked, decaying and/or abandoned, and cemeteries in ruin; older Jews, living on pensions, by and large “underground” and with scant communal resources: the “kosher kitchens” in Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw; a Jewish club in Lodz; Friday night or Shabbat services in Warsaw and Krakow, and the Yiddish theater in Warsaw. That first journey resulted in the publication of Polish Jews: The Final Chapter (McGraw-Hill and New York University Press, 1977). Returning several times between 1975 and 1983, Fishman’s images provide rare glimpses into Jewish life during a period when Jews in the West had little or no access to their Polish forebears in the post-Holocaust era. His more recent images, made 30 years later upon his arrival in 2013—more than two decades after the fall of Communism—chronicle a spiritual and cultural “return to identity” that Fishman says, “would have been unthinkable before.” His latest work speaks “to themes of resilience and renewal, exploring and elucidating the myriad faces and facets of recovery and re-generation,” he explains, as younger generations are discovering their Jewish roots, and what it means “being Jewish.”

Chuck Fishman, Mosses Lekker, caretaker of the Jewish Cemetery. Lodz, 1975. © Chuck Fishman

Although color and digital printing is the medium of choice today, Fishman, in his recent and current work, continues to use black and white film as he had in the ‘70s and ‘80s, intentionally seeking a “cohesive, visual continuity throughout the images, and across the decades.” He both processes his own film and makes his own exhibition prints, and emphasizes that working with film—each of the original negatives—is of primal importance when crafting archival, gelatin silver photographic prints.

Jewish roots. Sept. 2013.Chuck Fishman, Newly-appointed American-Israeli Rabbi Avi Baumol (far right) introducing a Torah scroll to third- and fourth-generation post-Holocaust Jews. His first time teaching Sunday school at the Jewish Community Center (JCC). Krakow, 2013. © Chuck Fishman

About the artist

Chuck Fishman has focused on social and political issues with a strong humanistic concern. His work has been extensively published, exhibited and collected worldwide, and has earned him prestigious World Press Photo Foundation medals four times. His photographs have appeared on the covers of Time, Life, Fortune, Newsweek, The London Sunday Times, The Economist, and numerous others, and have been selected for publication in the American Photography and Communication Arts juried annuals. Fishman’s work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; the United Nations; POLIN: The Museum of the History of Polish Jews; The Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona; The Studio Museum in Harlem; and Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University, among many others, as well as in private and corporate collections. Fishman’s first monograph, Polish Jews: The Final Chapter, was published in 1977 in the United States. He has worked on book projects for publishers worldwide, from France to Singapore to Papua New Guinea. Exhibitions of his work include solo shows in the U.S. and Europe, and influential group exhibitions globally, including the International Center of Photography in New York City and the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China. He lives in New York with his wife, Susan.

Usage of these pictures is limited to press reviews of the exhibition: “Chuck Fishman: Roots, Resilience and Renewal—A Portrait of Polish Jews, 1975–2016” being held at the Derfner Judaica Museum from September 17, 2017–January 8, 2018. They may not be cropped or altered in any way. No further reproduction or transmission of these images is authorized. Credit must state: Photograph (c) Chuck Fishman.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by Joseph Alexander Foundation, the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. 

Brenda Zlamany: 100/100

On view September 10, 2017–January 7, 2018
Click here to read the exhibition catalogue

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Brenda Zlamany: 100/100

Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition Brenda Zlamany: 100/100 on view at the Derfner Judaica Museum from September 10, 2017–January 7, 2018. 

The exhibition features 100 watercolor portraits of residents of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, and is part of the artist’s “Itinerant Portraitist” project. In this project, Zlamany explores the constructive effects of portraiture in communities around the globe. Previous efforts include 888: Creating a Portrait of Taiwanese Aboriginals, which was funded by a Fulbright Grant, and a project involving the diverse population of the UAE. 100/100 is the second US location of the “Itinerant Portraitist” and was created over several weeks during which the artist was in residence at the Home. As Zlamany explains: “In each project I choose a specific demographic and discover something new. With the Tibetan nomads and monks, I was interested in the interior gaze. With 366: A Watercolor Portrait a Day, I was interested in becoming more deeply involved with my community of artists. In the UAE I was interested in cultural differences, especially the women.  With 100/100, I am interested in aging: What is important at the end of life? In the face of loss: loss of loved ones, mobility, senses, taste, hearing, sight. . . . Is there still the possibility of joy? The role of memory.  What experiences from the past fuel happiness?”

Brenda Zlamany, 100/100 (detail), 2017, watercolor and pencil on paper, 12 x 9 in. each. Courtesy of the artist. www.BrendaZlamany.com

Brenda Zlamany, 100/100 (detail), 2017, watercolor and pencil on paper, 12 x 9 in. each. Courtesy of the artist. www.BrendaZlamany.com

Working with the Home’s residents, most of whom are in their 80s and 90s, with several over the age of 100, Zlamany embraces the collaborative nature of the portrait process, borrowing strategies from traditional art-making (portraiture, watercolor), conceptual art (production according to a pre-determined schedule and quota of 100 paintings) and performance art (emphasizing process and the nature of the engagement between artist and sitter).  She paints six or more sitters each day using a camera lucida, a device for drawing that dates back to the Renaissance and promotes a two-way exchange between artist and subject. Working in close proximity, with her paper flat, her subjects watch as their image emerges on the page and guide it, consciously and unconsciously.

Brenda Zlamany, 100/100 (detail), 2017, watercolor and pencil on paper, 12 x 9 in. each. Courtesy of the artist. www.BrendaZlamany.com

Brenda Zlamany, 100/100 (detail), 2017, watercolor and pencil on paper, 12 x 9 in. each. Courtesy of the artist. www.BrendaZlamany.com

Given the unique setting for this project, the collaborations led to intimate, surprising and often inspiring revelations from the sitters. The interactions have been both “poignant and confusing,” as Zlamany has gotten to know older adults, unique in their backgrounds and experiences, yet part of a large, singular community, whom she might not otherwise have met and had the opportunity to paint. 100/100 has required more focus and empathy than her other projects, she says. “Portraiture from observation is a specific form of communication. We show ourselves to each other and an image appears documenting this,” she explains. Even when a sitter cannot communicate verbally, “when I paint them I can see their thoughts about the portrait on their face,” she adds. “For instance, I’ll load a brush with red and as it hits the paper, a subject’s eyes will go to the red on her shirt and suddenly there will be the slightest smile of recognition. These silent conversations are really special to me.”

As Zlamany points out: “The project is as much about the experience as it is about the watercolor. I attempt to see someone. Who are they? They reveal themselves, but they also see me seeing them. Thus, I reveal myself to the subject. This takes place over an hour of extreme focus. The subject guides me. Sometimes we sit in silence; other times great secrets are divulged. I may coax them, but they decide. Sometimes I’m the one telling the secrets. The image, built up slowly, stroke by stroke, is evidence of a two-way exchange. Often I’ll make big changes, perhaps add a slight smile in the end, after a good laugh is shared. I ask myself about empathy. What is that? Is it required? Am I creating fiction or am I discovering something real. Does it matter? It’s a talking project, a performance; stories are at the heart of it.”

Following in the tradition of the early modern era, sitters arrived all dressed up for the occasion much as patrons would have more than a century ago at the studio of portrait painters like John Singer Sargent. To be painted was not only flattering, but provided time set aside to share their stories. Those private moments are hinted at in the portraits, which convey to visitors to the exhibition a glimpse of the beauty and wisdom that comes with age.

About the artist

Brenda Zlamany is a painter who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Since 1982 her work has appeared in over a dozen solo exhibitions and many group shows in the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Museums that have exhibited her work include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei; the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the National Museum, Gdansk, Poland, and Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent, Belgium. Her work has been reviewed in ARTFORUM, Art in America, Flash Art, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere, and is held in the collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum; Deutsche Bank; the Museum of Modern Art, Houston; the Neuberger Museum of Art; the Virginia Museum of Fine Art; the World Bank, and Yale University Art Gallery. Zlamany has collaborated with authors and editors of the New York Times Magazine on several commissions, including an image of Marian Anderson for an article by Jessye Norman and one of Osama bin Laden for the September 11, 2005, cover. Grants she has received include a Fulbright Fellowship (2011), a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant (2006–07) and a NYFA Grant in Painting (1994). www.BrendaZlamany.com

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Additional funding provided by Alicia Felton and Sherrill Neff and Andrea and Robert Meislin.