PMJA at 40: Highlights from the Permanent Collection
April 2016 - November 2016
About the Exhibit
Curated by Rabbi Bill Kuhn
Of all the many gifts this great congregation gives to us each day, I believe Rodeph Shalom’s Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art (PMJA) is among the most meaningful. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the PMJA, let us give thanks to the visionary leaders of our congregation who established and built up this treasure.
Over the years, we have established a Permanent Collection, which includes works of art from exhibitions at RS during the past 40 years. Some of the pieces in the Permanent Collection have been purchased by
the PMJA Fund, which is made up of contributions by congregants. Other pieces were purchased directly by congregants and then donated to the PMJA. Some pieces were even donated by the artists themselves. This show is composed of 40 works of art which represent highlights of the many shows over 40 years. These pieces are arranged to highlight our holdings from within several major categories of artwork, including Israel, Cultural, Biblical, Prayer, and Spiritual themes.
The PMJA was established in 1976 by a grant from the family of Alvin (z”l) and Mary Bert Gutman in memory of Alvin’s father, Jacob Gutman, and has been sustained over the years by the Gutman, Rosenberg, and Sloane families as well as the PMJA Committee and many congregants. We have been blessed to have the gifted leadership of 3 wonderful curators, Joan C. Sall, Wendi Furman, and Matt Singer, all of whom offered invaluable advice in curating this exhibit.
I hope you will enjoy and support our PMJA for many years to come. As you contemplate the art in our galleries, may you be inspired by the gift of artistic creation which God has endowed within each of our artists. May the spirit of God within their work make your spirit soar.
Rabbi William I. Kuhn, Curator
Ken Goldman: Some Body Jewish
December 2015 - March 2016
For the last thirty years I have been living and creating art in Israel. My work is influenced by the challenges of being at the same time; an American, observant Jew, and an Israeli kibbutz member. These different parts of my identity are a major factor influencing my art. Many of my works give the impression of one firmly planted in the moment and place-yet the feeling of being on the outside looking inward seems to pervade the art as well. While speaking specifically to my experience I feel the works communicate with people of all backgrounds regardless of religion or nationality. The works presented cover a large variety of subject matter such as; gender, religion, politics, ritual and community. The various mediums I use are: body art, video, sculpture, painting, drawing and photographs of my performance based pieces.
JOMIX — Jewish Comics: Art and Derivation
August 1- November 15, 2015
Exhibit curated by Joel Silverstein, Richard McBee and Aimee Rubensteen of the Jewish Art Salon.
Organized for the PMJA by Wendi Furman
From the invention of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, to the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, Jewish artists and writers have served an essential and indispensable role in the comics and graphic novel industry. This exhibition boasts a roster of cutting edge creators, reinvestigating traditional genres like superhero, political satire, romance, horror, science fiction and confessionals through a Jewish lens. Join us for a look at how these contemporary Jewish artists use the comic’s medium as a way to express and address their own Jewish identity and cultural experience while also examining the complex relationship of art, identity and culture within the Jewish community at large.
"Jim Winters: Presence" Reduction screen print portraits
December 2013- June 2015
In Presence, San Francisco-based artist Jim Winters explores human connection and consciousness. The exhibition’s portraits—more than sixty reduction screenprints—evoke friendship and influence, memory and mourning, and the vast sweep of people, ideas, and emotions that sometimes simmer, sometimes spark in our cognizance.
Shown in the first group of portraits—grey figures on black backgrounds—are members of Winters’ far-flung network of family, friends, and acquaintances. Many of these portraits are based on photographs Winters shot well in advance of this project with the intention of serving as sources for future work. Others represent those with whom Winters reconnected via Facebook and other means after the deaths in 2012 of his father and, later in the year, of the artist’s best friend and former partner.
The second—brown on black—are drawn from Winters experience of visiting Auschwitz in 2013. At Auschwitz, he encountered a wall covered with photographs that were confiscated from those who suffered and died in the notorious concentration camp.
The third group—blue figures on black—are Jewish artists, filmmakers, writers, and performers who captured Winters’ imagination and shaped his own creativity. Among those honored by Winters are artists Diane Arbus, Alex Katz, Cary Leibowitz, Louise Nevelson, Cindy Sherman, and Weegee; gay-rights activist and politician Harvey Milk; performers Scarlett Johansson, Gilda Radner, and Shelley Winters; musicians Philip Glass, Kenny Mellman (The Julie Ruin, Kiki and Herb), Peaches, and Lou Reed; and filmmakers Woody Allen and Todd Haynes (Mildred Pierce, I’m Not There, Far From Heaven, The Velvet Goldmine).
Seemingly disparate, these portraits are united in the great personal meaning they hold for Winters and the opportunity for those who explore Presence to contemplate and consider anew their own human connections and consciousness. The portraits from Auschwitz, and those of notable and influential Jewish-Americans, are charged with associations that are likely to strike the emotional and intellectual chords of viewers. Those of Winters’ family, friends, and acquaintances remind us of those who share our own love and lives.
In the context of the PMJA and its home synagogue, Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Winters’ work speaks to the Jewish people’s singular history of loss and renewal. Also evoked is Judaism’s distinctly structured approach to death and mourning, as exemplified in practices such as shiva (communal visiting with the deceased’s family in the days after burial) and yahrzeit (the recitation of Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, in the synagogue on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, and the lighting of a candle that burns for twenty-four hours in the mourner’s home, among other practices).
Though hung in precise grids, the specific location of the portraits in Presence is determined by chance. Intermingled, they conjure the complex web of associations that we call “consciousness”; the chance nature of life’s joys and sorrows; and the coexistence of near and far, past and present, absence and presence, and love and loss in our personal and collective psyches.
The Sexuality Spectrum
August 26- November 18, 2013
The Sexuality Spectrum uses the language of fine art to present, celebrate and mourn individuals whose lives were and are jeopardized by discrimination and prejudice. Fear of the “other” has been a root cause of wars, persecutions, slavery and eradication. In defining sexuality as one of the oppressed categories it is necessary to use correct definitions. All people have sexuality. The rainbow nuances of sexuality are often referred to as LGBTQI: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex. Add to that Heterosexual, Pansexual, and re-named variants. Gay is the preferred word for men attracted to men, no longer considered a slur. Queer, once a derogative term that referred to all people who did not behave along heterosexual lines, is now the accepted umbrella term used to refer to all LGBTQI people. (Laura Kruger, Curator, HUC-JIR Museum)
The Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art continues to embrace and celebrate diversity by presenting art that reflects the world around us. Congregation Rodeph Shalom prides itself on its open, welcoming policies and its diverse membership. We are advocates for the civil rights of all people. In Pennsylvania the LGBTQI community is not afforded the same protections under the law as heterosexuals. There is no Marriage Equality law in Pennsylvania, there is no Civil Union or Domestic Partnership in Pennsylvania. A person may be denied employment or housing based on their sexuality. Our friends and neighbors, family and coworkers deserve equal rights and protection under the law.
On April 3, 2012 the following resolution was unanimously passed:The Board of Trustees of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia, PA. supports the legalization of same sex marriage in the United States and authorizes its Rabbi and President to state the same in any forum they may deem appropriate.
On October 10, 2012 I attended the opening of The Sexuality Spectrum at HUC-JIR. The curator, Laura Kruger, explained that this show developed out of the need to do something to affect change as the New York State legislature was engaged in the
passage of the Marriage Equality Act. “The HUC-JIR realized it could play a role in making positive changes in public understanding and compassionate support.” I knew immediately that I wanted to bring this exhibition to the PMJA in hopes of continuing that work in Pennsylvania. The PMJA is grateful for the opportunity to host this exhibition at this critical time in our nation’s history as we fight for equal rights for all people.
Mis/Constru(ct)ed Identities: Exploring Jewish Stereotypes"
An Installation by Leslie Friedman
May 1 - August 1, 2013
About the Exhibit:
Mis/Constru(ct)ed Identities is a site-specific exhibition composed of modular, stackable, sculptural forms sheathed in screen-printed linoleum tiles. Though geometric, graphic, and colorful, Friedman’s undulating wall sculptures explore a serious, typically troubling, subject: stereotypes about the Jewish people. Some of these stereotypes—such as associations with intelligence and humor— could be considered flattering. Others—such as the canard of deicide and the “blood libel”—have been the source of centuries of persecution and suffering. Still more—the perception of disproportionate Jewish involvement, and success, in entertainment and finance—may inspire pride, suspicion, or are simply dismissed, with these varied responses depending upon each individual’s perspectives and mindset. Friedman confronts these stereotypes creatively and without fear, thereby challenging the viewer to do the same.
About the Artist: In 2011, Leslie graduated from the MFA program having taught two semesters of serigraphy. Since graduating from Tyler, Leslie continues to teach a variety of printmaking studio courses and discussion-based seminars at the Tyler BFA Printmaking and Visual Studies programs, The University of the Arts, and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Imagined Israel: Mixed Media Paintings by Fran Gallun
December 2012 - April 2013
About the Exhibit:
The genesis of this work is in trips to Israel in 1998, 2006 and 2007, when I had the wonderful opportunity to do art work and travel around a bit. There, my work changed in response to the landscape, the light, and the powerful sensation of being in the land. Prior to this, I was interested in Jewish text and symbols, but working there led me to a different, deeper connection. Returning to work in the studio, the landscapes became simplified to horizontal strips: the sky, hills, terraced hillsides, earth, and water became layers of time, history, civilizations past; forming anew, passing away again in the earth’s continuing cycle.
In 2009 a friend in Israel asked if I would accept a package of old photographs which his mother had taken as a new immigrant in the 70’s, as he didn’t have the heart to discard them. Dozens of small faded photos arrived, and I was daunted. They waited in the studio, ignored, but their time came when I used them to make a wedding gift for our friend’s daughter. Cutting them into smaller pieces and combining them with my own materials, they became magical. "Imagined Israel: Mixed Media Paintings" shows the newest work, my thoughts about these many layers, strata, and meanings both hidden and revealed. You will also see their predecessors, the long narrow landscapes, some done in Israel during the 2006 journey. As you see, these horizons of landscape became stacked one on top of the other, and became bigger, denser layers of landscape which I create and unearth at the same time, feeling at times like an archeologist, always plumbing another depth. It is a pleasure and an honor to share these works with you.
Immanence: The Art of Tobi Kahn - 1987-2012
August 1 - December 1, 2012
Exhibition Catalogue Available for purchase ($15)
The Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art is delighted to welcome back Tobi Kahn, internationally acclaimed as a painter and sculptor. In Tobi Kahn's 1987 show at the PMJA, Chosen Spaces - Chosen Objects, a series of abstract landscape paintings of Israel and his mysterious and spiritual wooden Judaica were on exhibit. His work has been shown in over 40 solo shows and over 60 museum and group shows since he was selected as one of nine artists to be included in the 1985 Guggenheim Museum exhibition, "New Horizons in American Art."
For thirty years, Kahn has been steadfast in the pursuit of his distinct vision and persistent in his commitment to the redemptive possibilities of art. In pain, stone, and bronze, he has explored the correspondence between the intimate and monumental. While his early works drew on the tradition of American Romantic landscape paintings, his more recent pieces reflect his fascination with contemporary science, inspired by the micro-images of cell formations and satellite photography.
The New Sacred: Ritual Textiles by Rachel Kanter
March 29 - July 23, 2012
The New Sacred: Ritual Textiles by Rachel Kanter looks at ritual through the Home, Synagogue and Community. In Kanter’s art the kitchen is considered a mikdash me’at, (a little sanctuary) and the table becomes an alter. Her ritual tablecloths are to be used on the dining table in order to create a sacred space for giving thanks to God while strengthening the connection between the food we eat and the farmers that grow it. The tallit (prayer shawls) Rachel Kanter creates are to be used for prayer in the synagogue. She has created something sacred and holy that is also completely new and modern. The tallitot are inspired by the four cornered robes worn by the priests in biblical times and are designed using vintage apron patterns from the 20th century. While steeped in Jewish text, history and tradition, Kanter’s ritual garments are also entirely modern.
Kanter’s “Spiritual Mikveh” uses fabric to create a new ritual. Just as a traditional mikveh (ritual bath) is shared by a community, a “Spiritual Mikveh” is also used and shared by a community. When getting to an actual mikveh is not possible or desired, it creates a personal, sacred space out of fabric during a new, non-traditional mikveh ceremony. It is used to mark life-changing events and acknowledges that moment in time when you are alone with God: asking, pleading and thanking God for strength and understanding.
Each of the objects examines history and tradition through a contemporary lens, embeds new meaning and provides a fresh interpretation of “ritual.”
Exhibit organized by Wendi Furman, Director of the PMJA
Carnival City: the Wondrous Art of Esther Hamerman
December 1, 2011 - March 19, 2012
With drawings by her great grand daughter Nicole Eisenman - An Intergenerational Exhibit
Exhibit invited by and partially funded by Joan C. Sall, Director Emerita, PMJA.
About The Exhibit
Born in 1886 in a village outside of Krakow, Poland, Esther Hamerman raised a family in Vienna before fleeing the Nazis to the Americas, arriving in New York in 1944. Hamerman began painting late in life and unexpectedly found success as a nationally-known folk artist. Painting with her canvas flat on a table, surrounded by postcards, newspapers, snacks, and a lifetime of memories, she heartily enjoyed making pictures. Hamerman’s larger paintings are intricate images seemingly woven from sources as disparate as Caribbean carnivals and Jewish weddings, I Love Lucy and football, cable cars and steamships.
Nicole Eisenman grew up admiring her great-grandmother Hamerman, affectionately called Mutti, whose art hung throughout Eisenman’s family home in suburban New York. Born in 1965, Eisenman has become an influential contemporary American painter, freely mixing art history, feminism, and punk in edgy yet gorgeously painted canvases. It is a startling realization that an artist known as a “bad girl” in the 1990s is enamored with Hamerman’s deceptively simple technique of layering oil paint and ink drawing. Hamerman’s pictorial style possesses an integrity springing from the everyday handicraft and symbolic storytelling that have enriched Jewish life for centuries.
The felicitous pairing of fourteen Hamerman paintings from the 1950s and five new Eisenman drawings creates a delightful intergenerational dialogue. Both artists paint richly detailed, colorful, and often humorous compositions. Their scale ranges from the incidental moment to the sweep of history. Carnival City, the first exhibition of Hamerman’s art on the East Coast in over two decades, shows how her paintings continue to be a touchstone, providing a solid legacy and a challenge to invent.