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Seven Artists Inspired by Hanukkah

November 19, 2010 - January 30, 2011

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Complete listing for
Hanukkah 2010 at
The Jewish Museum

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The festival of Hanukkah celebrates an ancient victory for religious freedom, the liberation and reestablishment of Jewish worship in the Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE. According to legend, a miracle occurred as the Jews gave thanks for divine intervention. A one-day supply of consecrated oil necessary for worship burned for the entire eight-day festival. Thus was born the central ritual of Hanukkah, the kindling of flames for eight days and nights in commemoration of this extraordinary event. Today, the celebration of Hanukkah as a time of freedom and miracles and the tradition of lighting the festival candles on a winter's evening continue to have profound meaning around the world. In this installation, contemporary works of art from the museum’s collection remind us that miracles are the stuff of powerful inspiration and they can make for good fun too.

The exhibition features works by seven artists, including three major sculptural installations relating to Hanukkah. Alice Aycock’s Greased Lightning (1984), is a motorized kinetic sculpture featuring an oversized moving dreidel, the small, inscribed top that children play with during the holiday. Lynn Godley's Miracle (2004), an animated, monumental Hanukkah lamp, uses multiple lights to evoke the cumulative effect of progressively lighting the candles over eight nights. Robot Lights the Chanukah Candles (1985) by Mike Mandel is from his series playfully called “robot motion studies.”

Artists
Eleanor Antin
Alice Aycock
Lynn Godley
Marc Alan Jacobs
Mike Mandel
Matthew McCaslin
Larry Rivers

Also on view for Hanukkah 2010: Daniel Libeskind's Line of Fire
Complete listing for Hanukkah 2010 at The Jewish Museum

Vilna Nights

Eleanor Antin (American, b. 1935)

Vilna Nights, 1993-97

  • Mixed media installation
  • Dimensions variable
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift through the Estate of Francis A. Jennings, in memory of his wife Gertrude Feder Jennings, and an anonymous donor, 1997-130

Not on view Sculpture

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Vilna Nights

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Vilna Nights


This video by Eleanor Antin, an important first-generation feminist artist, is part of a larger installation about Vilna, Lithuania’s capital and a major center of Jewish culture and learning during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this scene a boy and girl, cold and hungry, share a crust of bread. Magically, a lighted Hanukkah menorah rises above them, levitating in mid-air. Chairs and a table set with an unexpected feast appear. Sadly, their joy is short lived as the celebration vanishes, but for a brief moment a wonderful miracle seems to occur.



Greased Lightning

Alice Aycock (American, b. 1946)

Greased Lightning, 1984

Not on view Sculpture

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Greased Lightning

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Greased Lightning


This kinetic sculpture by Alice Aycock has the uncontrollable energy of a group of rowdy children playing dreidel, a Hanukkah game celebrated in Jewish homes in many parts of the world. Aycock’s giant spinning tops don’t land on one side like a traditional dreidel nor do they determine winners and losers in this game of chance. Instead the artist celebrates science and who can say electricity and modern mechanics don’t sometimes seem miraculous?



Hanukkah Lamp

Hanukkah Lamp

Miracle

Lyn Godley (American, b. 1956)

Not on view Ceremonial Art

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Hanukkah Lamp

Miracle

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Miracle


Lyn Godley has created a joyous and monumental Hanukkah lamp that compresses the sequential lighting of the eight candles on eight separate nights into the span of several minutes. Like a display of fireworks, the momentum builds, resulting in a dazzling display of coordinated lights that is so satisfying it’s worth watching over and over again.



Being the Light

Matthew McCaslin (American, b. 1957)

On view Ceremonial Art

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Being the Light

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Being the Light

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At first glance this work by Matthew McCaslin appears to be a weird and whacky sculpture made from light bulbs, switches, and yards of metal electrical conduit. However, it is in fact a fully functioning Hanukkah lamp. There are nine light bulbs, connected to a set of eight switches, and a ninth switch set apart that serves as the shamash, or servitor, which “kindles” the other lights. The artist literally transforms these industrial materials, bringing them out of hiding "into the light," a most appropriate expression for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.



Study for Maccabees II

Larry Rivers (American, 1923-2002)

Study for Maccabees II, from History of Matzah: The Story of the Jews, 1982

  • Graphite and colored pencil on paper
  • 16 x 18 3/4 in. (40.6 x 47.6 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of Sivia and Jeffrey H. Loria, 1983-301
  • Art © Estate of Larry Rivers/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Not on view Works on Paper

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Study for Maccabees II

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Study for Maccabees II


Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee and his followers, over Hellenistic occupiers who had banned Jewish worship and installed idols in the Temple in Jerusalem. In this drawing, one of many studies Larry Rivers made for an epic series of three paintings entitled History of Matzah: The Story of the Jews, the Maccabees are depicted destroying the statue of the Greek god Zeus.

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