ZCurator

GRAPHIC DETAILS THE BOOK - FINALLY OUT! 
So happy to share that Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews, edited by the exhibtion’s co-curator Sarah Lightman, is finally for sale from McFarland! It’s been a long time coming since this wonderful exhibition started a few years back. I’m grateful to have been able to share in this project with Michael Kaminer and Sarah Lightman.  
Check out more on the soon-to-conclude exhibition and Jewish women’s confessional comics at graphicdetailstheshow.wordpress.com.

GRAPHIC DETAILS THE BOOK - FINALLY OUT! 

So happy to share that Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews, edited by the exhibtion’s co-curator Sarah Lightman, is finally for sale from McFarland! It’s been a long time coming since this wonderful exhibition started a few years back. I’m grateful to have been able to share in this project with Michael Kaminer and Sarah Lightman.  

Check out more on the soon-to-conclude exhibition and Jewish women’s confessional comics at graphicdetailstheshow.wordpress.com.


DAY 1: MURAL REMOVAL

These are images from the first day of the removal of the only known synagogue mural in DC. I headed up the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington’s efforts to rescue the mural. We raised over $20,000 to conserve, remove, and store the mural for its future presentation in a museum.

Painted almost 90 years ago, this mural decorated the sanctuary of Shomrei Shabbos, a small orthodox community in downtown Washington. The mural’s shimmering Star of David and Hebrew quote have been removed and placed safely in crates. 

The mural is the remaining portion of a larger piece that once surrounded the synagogue’s ark. In 1993, as if peeling back layers of time, the then-owner rediscovered the mural hidden beneath layers of old paint and wallpaper. She worked to restore the celestial scene, Jewish star, and a portion of the biblical quote that encircled the ark – and added a winged lion. In 2013, BlackRock Holdings purchased the building and has started converting the property into a multi-family condominium. 

Conservation:

On the first day of the mural’s removal, the surface is is careful cleaned, and loose paint is stabilized. A baseboard covering the bottom of the mural was detached from the wall.

Viviana, the mural conservator, is using a special compound and Japanese rice paper to clean the six-pointed start. Strips of rice paper are gently bonded to the mural to stabilize fissures in the paint.

Removal of a baseboard covering the lower part of the mural exposed original paint and additional Hebrew lettering. The newly-exposed area reveals three “eras” of paint: the oldest and darkest is covered by a layer of soot; the small strip in the middle is cleaner, original paint; the top portion had a wash of paint in the 1990s to refresh the colors. Fragments of the mural that were hidden below a baseboard show the original paint and parts of Hebrew letters.


Posin’s: Legen-dairy in DC
My Article from the Jewish Food Experience Blog.  I’ll be writing for them monthly
If you lived in the Washington area in the twentieth century, your Shavuot meal may have been catered by Posin’s. For 80 years, Posin’s was the place for kosher baked goods like smaller, dense “old-style” bagels (today you might call them Montreal-style), dairy and meat dishes. You would see their platters at synagogue events, brises, bar and bat mitzvahs and shivas, as well as at official events. Posin’s catered for Israeli dignitaries including Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, too. In a 1987 interview with The Washington Post, Randy Posin, grandson of Posin’s founder Abraham Posin, recalled, “Our driver almost got arrested because of confusion over his security clearance” while delivering 2,000 Christmas cookies to the White House in 1986.
….. Read on at the Jewish Food Experience website: http://jewishfoodexperience.com/posins-legen-dairy-dc/
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Posin’s: Legen-dairy in DC

My Article from the Jewish Food Experience Blog.  I’ll be writing for them monthly

If you lived in the Washington area in the twentieth century, your Shavuot meal may have been catered by Posin’s. For 80 years, Posin’s was the place for kosher baked goods like smaller, dense “old-style” bagels (today you might call them Montreal-style), dairy and meat dishes. You would see their platters at synagogue events, brises, bar and bat mitzvahs and shivas, as well as at official events. Posin’s catered for Israeli dignitaries including Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, too. In a 1987 interview with The Washington Post, Randy Posin, grandson of Posin’s founder Abraham Posin, recalled, “Our driver almost got arrested because of confusion over his security clearance” while delivering 2,000 Christmas cookies to the White House in 1986.

….. Read on at the Jewish Food Experience website: http://jewishfoodexperience.com/posins-legen-dairy-dc/


EXHIBITION ON JEWISH DATING?!
My awesome intern just curated this fantastic exhibition on Jewish dating.  Take a moment and see what Jewish about Jewish dating!
yumuseum:

Anybody can date Jewish, but not everybody can Jewish-date.
Think you know what it takes?
One of our summer interns put together this fantastic online exhibition on the unique practice of Dating Jewishly. Check it out at YUM’s Flickr site. 
View Larger

EXHIBITION ON JEWISH DATING?!

My awesome intern just curated this fantastic exhibition on Jewish dating.  Take a moment and see what Jewish about Jewish dating!

yumuseum:

Anybody can date Jewish, but not everybody can Jewish-date.

Think you know what it takes?

One of our summer interns put together this fantastic online exhibition on the unique practice of Dating Jewishly. Check it out at YUM’s Flickr site


ASTOUNDING AUGMENTED REALITY ART

It’s not just Tao Tajima’s use of luminous, moving shapes in Night Stroll.  It’s their shadows and reflections in the Tokyo landscape.  

From iGNANT.de:

Japanese filmmaker Tao Tajima went for a ‘Night Stroll’ in Tokyo. He created this fancy video not far from his home. Tao Tajima tracked it with 3DCG software, afterwards he added motion graphics and particle reflections. The result is a video full of geometric shapes popping  spinning  flashing, and sliding throughout the night-time landscapes of Tokyo. The light patterns are impressively realistic and almost resemble the light painting of still photography. Enjoy.


AN ARTIST WHO CREATES LANGUAGE TO MAKE ART

A few months ago I discussed the possibility of accessioning a monumental piece by an artist composed of thousands of strings hanging from a ceiling.  Unfortunately my institution would not be able to store this piece, so we talked about accessioning instructions for making the piece … as the piece itself (a la Sol Lewitt I suppose). I recently visited this artist’s studio to find that much of his work is rooted in constructing a language to create pieces — so much so that the creation of language becomes part of the art-making act. 

Brooklyn artist R. Justin Stewart’s studio is dominated by a grid of framed, wordless drawings that appear to be pages ripped from an instruction manual, but which give no obvious image of what the end product might be.  Some of these drawings include circles and other shapes, linked together by small symbols akin to nautical flags, themselves “linked” via red tape lines on the wall, with other drawings present neatly organized shapes and rows of varying-sized circles.  Initially, they struck me as simple, easy to follow instructions for not much of anything, which were meant collectively as a jab at the seemingly simple but occasionally dumbfounding directions for Ikea furniture.

Then Stewart presented a sculpture that looked like an enlarged undersea creature, a spiky bioflorescent organism that lives miles under the sea. It was a structure composed of plastic o-rings held together with hundreds of zip ties. This piece, systems of knowing 03, which included the sculpture and the drawings, revolve around the question of how to communicate instructions for constructing a structure.  

Suddenly Stewart’s language became clear.  The drawings were step-by-step guides to building the sculpture.  The colorful symbols represented actions and material elements, and they appeared on drawings that illustrate how to compile different segments.  Other drawings showed finished segments and sub-segments, all leading to the final sculpture.  Where, moments earlier, I thought I was looking at images and symbols that were purposely meaningless, I could only see a rational syntax for construction. 

I like Stewart’s work aesthetically and conceptually.  He presents large quantities of data in coherent, playful, and seemingly circuitous forms.  However, for me, their greatest impact is that moment when they become clear, when they yield that wonderful moment of epiphany. And that moment emerges not only — and perhaps not primarily — from the encounter with the physical piece, but from a sudden and surprising clarification in the language of the piece.  It’s like suddenly finding yourself able to understand a language that seconds earlier sounded like gibberish


FACES EVERYWHERE - IN BEN-ZION’S HOUSE

If an art piece is an artifact of the artist’s world, what happens when the artist’s everyday life comes to resemble the art? 

A few months after I started as a curator at YU Museum, I was invited to look at work in (and all over) the Chelsea home of the abstract painter and sculptor Ben-Zion (1897 - 1987). Every inch of wall in the townhouse was covered with racks of hundreds of painting, sculptures, scrap metal, prints, and layers of curios.  Every object had been placed by the artist to not only create a pleasant and purposeful aesthetic for his living space, but seemed to in fact shape the space into an art piece that looked back you.  This was particularly evident in the dozens of masks leering, grinning, and quietly watching from every wall and corner. All of these were made by the artist.

Though not much of a household name, Ben-Zion was, during his lifetime, an important abstract artist, and notably a member of The Ten, a group of avant-garde artists in the 1930s, which included Mark Rothko, Ilya Bolotowsky, Adolph Gottlieb, and others. Born Benzion Weinman in the Russian Empire (Ukraine), Ben-Zion immigrated to the United States in 1920. Ben-Zion distinguished himself by his embrace of primitivism, and, later on, his treatment of Jewish imagery in both paintings and sculpture. His works are in numerous collections around the world.

I had no clue what to expect during my foray (excursion, safari, I’m not sure what) into his home to meet his widow Lillian. Though I came to look at his Jewish-focused paintings and sculptures, I was struck most by the presence of dozens if not hundreds of masks all over the place. Some were made form salvaged wood with little more that a few holes drilled or dug out to make a face.  Others were pieces of scrap metal, or constructions.  Though most were situated along walls, especially in the basement and garden, some of these faces were nestled with other “objects” like the building’s gas meters and a wall-mounted collection of antique tools. They were on the floor, on the ceiling, in the corners, under furniture.  Everywhere.

What impressed me more was the simplicity of these faces, and how Ben-Zion was capable of so simply defining a face in part of a log, or a castaway piece of rusted steel.  It was as if he took just a few more steps to finish each piece, which had been started for him by another set of unseen forces.

So why do this, why live with so many faces?  Why, I asked Lillian, would he want to live with these objects gazing at him from every corner of his house (did he have one in the toilet even?).  I don’t remember her answer with terrific clarity, but I do recall it had something to do with feeling as if he had company (not in a sad and kind of creepy “Wilson from Cast Away” kind of way).  I got the sense that there was something deeper, though, and that these faces were a gateway for Ben-Zion into the world of those unseen forces that had already done most of the work.  Whether it was the divine, the human spirit, nature, or something otherwise ineffable, I think these faces (and not masks) connected Ben-Zion to something he wanted know was there by seeing it.

Only recently did I get a sense of how much this experience effected the way that I look at art, and present it in galleries and elsewhere.  For my recent project working with students learning about exhibition design, and in fact designing the gallery for the Stern College for Women senior student art exhibition, I suggested that they think about each art piece as an artifact of a world that each artist inhabits — or hopes to inhabit.  That’s not the studio or the gallery, but some place in the artist’s mind. This task was tough for them — it’s a tough task.  How can a person see and experience an artist’s world — either in its totality or even just a small piece of territory?  Some artists are able to create this for us.  Most can’t or do not need to do so. The design class called the exhibition Trespassing  treating the gallery as a chance for the audience to “trespass” into the worlds created by the artists on view. 

Ben-Zion created a world for himself that I’m not sure he meant for most people to see.  I was lucky to have seen it, to feel the stares, gazes and smiles of his acquaintances, which, I think he hoped, would tell me that nowhere are we alone.


HUNDREDS OF PILLARS HOLDING UP … NOTHING
On a cold afternoon at the end of the fall semester at then president of Cooper Union Calvin Hathaway climbed to the roof of its historic building at Astor Place and snapped this melancholy picture looking down 3rd Avenue.  He captured a moment at the end of the era of New York City’s elevated train network, which, by the mid-1950s, was being dismantled after being supplanted by the subway. Following the removal of the tracks and the train platforms, rows of lonely support pillars remained, stretching down Manhattan’s avenues, supporting nothing. These pillars supported the 3rd Avenue Elevated Train line, which ran between South Ferry at Manhattan’s southern tip, north to the Harlem River.
This image appears in my exhibition, It’s a Thin Line: The Eruv and Jewish Community in New York and Beyond because the 3rd Avenue El was the western boarder of the first Manhattan Eruv enclosure.  When the El was dismantled, this eruv ceased to exist. I included this particular image for its stark melancholiness, which I think emphasizes that importance of a loss of an eruv for a Jewish community (Check out the exhibition and this article for a longer explanation). Here, I hope the visitor doesn’t just see the remnants of dismantled train line, but the last components of a crucial tool utilized by the hundreds of thousands of New York’s Jewish community who had emigrated here over the previous decades. 
Calvin S. Hathaway (1907 – 1974), Third Avenue El from the Cooper Union, Gelatin Silver Print, December 22, 1955, Museum of the City of New York Collection, X2010.11.8951 View Larger

HUNDREDS OF PILLARS HOLDING UP … NOTHING

On a cold afternoon at the end of the fall semester at then president of Cooper Union Calvin Hathaway climbed to the roof of its historic building at Astor Place and snapped this melancholy picture looking down 3rd Avenue.  He captured a moment at the end of the era of New York City’s elevated train network, which, by the mid-1950s, was being dismantled after being supplanted by the subway. Following the removal of the tracks and the train platforms, rows of lonely support pillars remained, stretching down Manhattan’s avenues, supporting nothing. These pillars supported the 3rd Avenue Elevated Train line, which ran between South Ferry at Manhattan’s southern tip, north to the Harlem River.

This image appears in my exhibition, It’s a Thin Line: The Eruv and Jewish Community in New York and Beyond because the 3rd Avenue El was the western boarder of the first Manhattan Eruv enclosure.  When the El was dismantled, this eruv ceased to exist. I included this particular image for its stark melancholiness, which I think emphasizes that importance of a loss of an eruv for a Jewish community (Check out the exhibition and this article for a longer explanation). Here, I hope the visitor doesn’t just see the remnants of dismantled train line, but the last components of a crucial tool utilized by the hundreds of thousands of New York’s Jewish community who had emigrated here over the previous decades. 

Calvin S. Hathaway (1907 – 1974)Third Avenue El from the Cooper Union, Gelatin Silver Print, December 22, 1955, Museum of the City of New York Collection, X2010.11.8951


“A RABBI AND MONK WALK INTO A COURTYARD” 
The Jewish Week covers the fantastic walking tour on Eruvs and Cloisters, an outgrowth of my exhibition, It’s a Thin Line. Check it out at http://www.thejewishweek.com/blogs/well-versed/rabbi-and-amonk-walk-courtyard 
From yumuseum!

“A RABBI AND MONK WALK INTO A COURTYARD” 
Coverage of YUM’s terrific event comparing the conceptual and architectural dimensions of Eruvs and Cloisters, with the Cloister’s Museum.
Read the article at thejewishweek.com
View Larger

“A RABBI AND MONK WALK INTO A COURTYARD” 

The Jewish Week covers the fantastic walking tour on Eruvs and Cloisters, an outgrowth of my exhibition, It’s a Thin Line. Check it out at http://www.thejewishweek.com/blogs/well-versed/rabbi-and-amonk-walk-courtyard 

From yumuseum!

“A RABBI AND MONK WALK INTO A COURTYARD” 

Coverage of YUM’s terrific event comparing the conceptual and architectural dimensions of Eruvs and Cloisters, with the Cloister’s Museum.

Read the article at thejewishweek.com


WHO LEFT THESE DOG HEADS IN THE CLOSET?

I turned the corner to encounter this wonderful and slightly terrifying site of dog heads tumbling out of a wall.  It was a terrific installation by Michael Ballou at the Brooklyn Museum’s Raw/Cooked series.

Michael Ballou, Dog Years, 2013, Blue foam, urethane foam, plaster, paint