From March 17 through June 30, 2002, The Jewish Museum will present Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art, a contemporary art exhibition accompanied by extensive education programs, forums for discussion, and a major publication. At the core of this initiative is a selection of recent works by thirteen internationally recognized artists, all of whom make new and daring use of imagery taken from the Nazi era. Employing the challenging language of conceptual art, the artists bring the highly charged imagery of the Third Reich out of the past and into the present, leading us to question how images shape our perception of evil today.
“As an art museum that presents all of Jewish culture, we are committed to showing works of contemporary artists who have used images of the Nazi era to make a powerful and timely investigation of the nature of evil, “ stated Joan Rosenbaum, Helen Goldsmith Director of The Jewish Museum. “These artists ask each viewer to consider his or her responsibility toward civil society, and to be vigilant about the bigotry and dehumanization that continue in the world more than fifty years after the Holocaust.”
The exhibition Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art has been conceived and organized by Norman L. Kleeblatt, the Susan and Elihu Rose Curator of Fine Arts at The Jewish Museum. “A trend has emerged over the past decade,” Mr. Kleeblatt says, “in which younger artists have departed from the more traditional ways of addressing the Holocaust and have begun to find new ways to confront the evil of the Third Reich. Many of these artists base their works on the material of popular culture, which is a potent source of information for their generation. Others wed Nazi imagery to coveted consumer products, warning us about the fragile boundaries between propaganda and promotion, desire and destruction. I believe all of these artists invite us to look at ourselves, to reflect on the role the Holocaust plays in our lives today as memory, as point of reference, even as a subject for the entertainment industry - and to question the adequacy of our own response to evil.”
The artists represented in Mirroring Evil come from eight different countries. They are Boaz Arad (born 1956, Israel); Christine Borland (born 1965, Scotland); Mat Collishaw (born 1966, England); Rudolf Herz (born 1954, Germany); Elke Krystufek (born 1970, Austria); Mischa Kuball (born 1959, Germany); Zbigniew Libera (born 1959, Poland); Roee Rosen (born 1963, Israel); Tom Sachs (born 1966, U.S.); Alan Schechner (born in England 1962, lives in U.S.); Alain Séchas (born 1955, France); Maciej Toporowicz (born in Poland 1958; lives in U.S.); and Piotr Uklański (born in Poland 1968; lives in U.S.).
The exhibition includes two specially commissioned interpretive videos. The first, produced by the noted art historian Maurice Berger and shown in the entrance gallery, introduces major themes of the exhibition by exploring how popular films and television programs have used similar, potent images of the Nazi era. This video raises questions that are present throughout the exhibition questions to which there are no simple answers. They are:
Who can speak for the Holocaust? Can only survivors speak? How can subsequent generations gain understanding and apply the lessons of the past?
How has art used Nazi imagery to present evil? What happens to our understanding of history, as film, television, and other art forms convert the Nazis into symbols?
What are the limits of irreverence? To what extent may artists overstep the bounds of taste, in confronting facts that are outrageous and terrifying? Do some art forms work against themselves?
Why must we confront evil? What are the dangers of ignoring the past, or being complacent about the present?
How has art helped to break the silence? When reality seems to be unspeakable, how may art open a dialogue and keep memory alive?
The second video, produced and directed by Maxine Wishner, is shown at the end of the exhibition. It provides a range of commentaries and responses to the artworks, taken from interviews with the artists and with curators, educators, Jewish community leaders, and Holocaust survivors. The Executive Producer for this video was Carole Zawatsky, The Jewish Museum’s Director of Education, who worked with Creative Content and Program Designer Karen Michel, and Cinematographer and Editor Ralph Toporoff.
The Jewish Museum has organized Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art and its related programs as a means of prompting meaningful discussion about the questions raised by the artworks. Like all of the Museum’s presentations of art related to the Holocaust and the Nazi era, this exhibition is part of an ongoing dialogue between the artists and the public.
During the presentation of the exhibition, The Jewish Museum will offer programs for adults, school groups, and educators organized in partnership with other institutions throughout New York City. Programming partners include The Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New School University; The New York Public Library, Humanities and Social Sciences Library; CLAL The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; Columbia University; and Facing History and Ourselves.
The public programs associated with Mirroring Evil have been selected by Americans for the Arts as a component of that organization’s prestigious Animating Democracy Lab. Supported by the Ford Foundation, the Animating Democracy Lab fosters artistic and humanistic activity that stimulates civic dialogue on important contemporary issues. The Jewish Museum is one of only five New York City institutions, and one of only sixteen nationwide, to participate in this year’s Animating Democracy Initiative.
In conjunction with the exhibition, The Jewish Museum and Rutgers University Press have published the catalogue Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art, edited by Norman L. Kleeblatt. The 164-page book, featuring 79 illustrations (26 of them in color), includes a foreword by James E. Young and essays by Mr. Kleeblatt, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Reesa Greenberg, Lisa Saltzman, Ellen Handler Spitz, and Ernst van Alphen. The book is available for $65 hardcover and $30 paperbound in the Museum’s Cooper Shop and at bookstores nationwide.
The Jewish Museum and Art Related to the Holocaust
Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art is the most recent of many art exhibitions at The Jewish Museum that have addressed the period of the Holocaust. These exhibitions have notably included a 1985 retrospective of the work of Felix Nussbaum, a young Jewish artist who perished in the Holocaust; The Art of Memory, a groundbreaking 1994 exhibition that examined how and why public memory of the Holocaust is shaped by museums and monuments; and an exhibition in 2000 of the Holocaust-era paintings and drawings of Charlotte Salomon, titled Charlotte Salomon: Life? Or Theatre?
The Jewish Museum also collects artworks and artifacts related to the Holocaust. Examples of them, such as George Segal’s pivotal 1982 sculpture The Holocaust, are included in the permanent exhibition Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey.
From March 17 through June 30, 2002, while Mirroring Evil is on view in its first-floor galleries, the Museum will also present An Artist’s Response to Evil: “We Art Not the Last” by Zoran Music. This exhibition, to be shown on the Museum’s second floor, is comprised of a series of paintings and watercolors reinterpreting the drawings of the dead that Zoran Music made during his two-year internment at the Dachau concentration camp, where he was sent after his arrest by the Gestapo for anti-German activity in 1944.
Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art is supported, in part, by the Animating Democracy Initiative, a program of Americans for the Arts, funded by The Ford Foundation.
Major gifts have also been provided by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, The Ellen Flamm Philanthropic Fund, Peter Norton and The Peter Norton Family Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Schnurmacher Foundations, the Joseph Alexander Foundation, Inc., Goldie and David Blanksteen, The Dorsky Foundation, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, and other generous donors.
NOTE: The press preview for this exhibition will take place on Wednesday, March 13, 2002 from 10 am to 1 pm. Please RSVP to 212.423.3271.