ZCurator

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


AND MOSES SAID, “I ORDERD THE TOFU SCRAMBLE! SEE YOU IN COURT!” 
Moses might be  bringing the Ten Commandments ‘down to the people' in this one relief on the facade of the court house in Brooklyn on Adams Street (adjacent to Borough Hall). It alludes to a conception of a western legal tradition rooted in Judeo-Christian text. Yet, inscribing such scenes on public buildings is largely taboo today because they refer to a particular religious tradition, and perhaps can be regarded as perpetuating a theistic vision cosmology. 
HOWEVER, this being Brooklyn, which is perhaps the heart of the great North American brunch tradition today, and considering that we’re living in a particularly litigious moment in American culture, we might understand this image as a Moses so irate that his brunch order was screwed up, that he took the restaurant staff to court.  Yeah, that makes sense.  View Larger

AND MOSES SAID, “I ORDERD THE TOFU SCRAMBLE! SEE YOU IN COURT!” 

Moses might be  bringing the Ten Commandments ‘down to the people' in this one relief on the facade of the court house in Brooklyn on Adams Street (adjacent to Borough Hall). It alludes to a conception of a western legal tradition rooted in Judeo-Christian text. Yet, inscribing such scenes on public buildings is largely taboo today because they refer to a particular religious tradition, and perhaps can be regarded as perpetuating a theistic vision cosmology. 

HOWEVER, this being Brooklyn, which is perhaps the heart of the great North American brunch tradition today, and considering that we’re living in a particularly litigious moment in American culture, we might understand this image as a Moses so irate that his brunch order was screwed up, that he took the restaurant staff to court.  Yeah, that makes sense. 


DOES FAT DRACULA HAVE TUBERCULOSIS?
This wonderful image from the famed 19th Century Jewish artist Ephraim Moses Lillian suggest that’s sort of the case…  ok, maybe not.  But I love this image anyway insofar as it suggests that long ours of labor themselves can be kind of life-sucking.  No?
From yumuseum:

FAT DRACULA? This German postcard from the early 1900’s depicts a hunched over Jewish garment worker having his blood sucked out of the back of his neck. The winged man represents, not Dracula, but rather the life-sucking disease tuberculosis. Rampant in the early 1900’s, tuberculosis was particularly prevalent among underprivileged classes and in over-crowded work spaces, such as the over-stuffed garment shops across Manhattan (think the Triangle Shirtwaist fire).The recent tragic collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh has brought new attention to the old, international plight of garment workers. A worldwide, century-long effort to fight TB has been somewhat effective, yet millions still die yearly as a result of inhumane labor conditions. Lets hope that the renewed efforts to make garment factories safer will come to fruition sooner.
Ephraim Moses Lilien, Garment Worker Sickened by Tuberculosis, Berlin, Germany. Collection of the Yeshiva University Museum. 2002.169
View Larger

DOES FAT DRACULA HAVE TUBERCULOSIS?

This wonderful image from the famed 19th Century Jewish artist Ephraim Moses Lillian suggest that’s sort of the case…  ok, maybe not.  But I love this image anyway insofar as it suggests that long ours of labor themselves can be kind of life-sucking.  No?

From yumuseum:

FAT DRACULA?

This German postcard from the early 1900’s depicts a hunched over Jewish garment worker having his blood sucked out of the back of his neck. The winged man represents, not Dracula, but rather the life-sucking disease tuberculosis. Rampant in the early 1900’s, tuberculosis was particularly prevalent among underprivileged classes and in over-crowded work spaces, such as the over-stuffed garment shops across Manhattan (think the Triangle Shirtwaist fire).

The recent tragic collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh has brought new attention to the old, international plight of garment workers. A worldwide, century-long effort to fight TB has been somewhat effective, yet millions still die yearly as a result of inhumane labor conditions. Lets hope that the renewed efforts to make garment factories safer will come to fruition sooner.


Ephraim Moses Lilien, Garment Worker Sickened by Tuberculosis,
Berlin, Germany. Collection of the Yeshiva University Museum. 2002.169


THIS YEAR’S STUDENT EXHIBITION INSTALLATION

Say what you’d like about the art, I’m pretty proud of how this year’s Stern College Senior’s student exhibition turned out.  This year the concept is Trespassing — hence the kind of caution tape motif all over the gallery.  The concept is that to encounter an art object is to trespass into the mind if not world of the artist who created it.  Perhaps.  And, perhaps, you can see the influence of Sol Lewitt on these young designers.  I kind of can’t wait to see the gallery without the work in it.  

For the past four years, I’ve worked with art professors in the Studio Art program at Stern College to select pieces from the graduating seniors, and simultaneously worked with students, themselves under the tutelage of a design professor, to develop an exhibition of this work.  The design class developed and presented a series of conceptual and graphical approaches, and, through an iterative process, arrive at a final design, which is in turn implemented by our in-house and freelance staff.