Within the multiplicity of The Jewish Museum's collection stirs the conviction that Jewish history is not a single history. Traditional Jewish teaching is informed by the practice of midrash-- the interpretation of law and contemporary life. This exhibition mirrors the complex nature of Jewish identity, wherein the tradition of interpretation is reinscribed in the act of remembering, questioning, and reconstituting the shared and subjective contexts that commemorate and explicate the past.
These works and objects confront history, visualize the spaces of memory, question the boundaries between abstraction and representation, and enact ritual. Artists position themselves, either directly or indirectly, within historical and contemporary narratives, as they shape into discourses the fragments of memory, myth, and story.
Selected works from the exhibition
R. B. Kitaj (American, 1932-2007)
- Oil and charcoal on canvas
- 35 15/16 x 47 15/16 in. (91.3 x 121.8 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Purchase: Oscar and Regina Gruss Memorial and S. H. and Helen R. Scheuer Family Foundation Funds, 2000-71
Not on view Paintings
Eclipse of God refers to the Italian Renaissance artist Paolo Uccello's painting The Miracle of the Profaned Host (1467-68), commissioned for a church in Urbino. The narrative tells of a woman who sells a sacred Host to a Jewish merchant, who then throws it into a fire. Miraculously, according to the story, the host bleeds under the wall of the house into the street, which alerts local Christians who break down the door and rescue the Host. The Jewish merchant and his family are eventually burned at the stake for this crime against the Christian faith. What is lost in this narrative is another story, however. At the time of Uccello's commission, the radical Franciscan friars in Italy were engaged in an anti-Semitic campaign in order to establish the Monte di Pieta-loan agencies that sought to end Christian dependence upon Jewish money lenders, replacing such usury with their own source of capital. Kitaj uses a variety of techniques to underscore power struggles involving religion and money. He employs rigid, geometric forms to portray the mob, in all of its intolerant fury, which acts in the name of God (spelled out on the figure in the foreground), and casts the Jews in a sympathetic light by painting them with a looser, more expressionistic brushstroke. The underlying power struggle over the source of capital is further dramatized by the gradual disintegration of the Jews.
- Pre-printed steel and aluminum rivets
- Each: 3 11/16 x 6 7/16 x 1/2 in. (9.4 x 16.4 x 1.3 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Purchase: Dr. Joel and Phyllis Gitlin Judaica Acquisitions Fund, 2001-8a-yy
Not on view Ceremonial Art
Harriete Estel Berman has created this installation called Tzedakah (charity) as a meditation on charity as well as a functional piece of Judaica. The artist cut and shaped a selection of vintage enameled charity boxes (several from the Jewish National Fund) into envelopes to express the check-in-an-envelope style of giving most commonly practiced today. While reflecting contemporary sensibilities, the piece resonates with thoughts about the importance of charity in Jewish life.
Voice, Image, Gesture: Selections from The Jewish Museum's Collection, 1945-2000 is made possible, in part, through generous support from The Morris S. and Florence H. Bender Foundation, the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, the Joseph Alexander Foundation, Inc. and Mr. and Mrs. Dietrich Weismann.