Featuring artwork inspired by the Old Testament.
Artists: Helene Aylon, Siona Benjamin, Archie Rand, Hanan Harchol, Marc Malberg
Curator: Judith Brodsky
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 5, 5-7 p.m.
Artists’ Talk: Thursday, November 12, 7 p.m.
Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedeke Center, Top Floor
2083 Lawrenceville Road
Lawrenceville, New Jersey 08648. Phone: (609) 895-5588.
Thursday, November 5 through Sunday, December 6
Gallery is closed for Thanksgiving, November 25-27.
Gallery Hours: Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sundays, 12 noon to 4 p.m.
The exhibition will feature five nationally and internationally known artists. They share a common interest in the Old Testament which they treat not as a religious artifact but as a crucial text in Western culture. They approach this canonical material with a critical, postmodern eye tempered by current philosophic and theoretic considerations: feminism, rebellion against contemporary art world conventions which demand secularism; extracting contemporary meaning from the ethical and moral precepts contained in the Old Testament; and an excitement in exploring a rich lode of ideas upon which Western civilization is built but has not been mined for years.
Helène Aylon wants to reinsert women into the Five Books of Moses. As she says, “the Pentateuch is not about God, but rather all about Moses. God gets a bad rap on women, and she wants to correct that.”
Siona Benjamin comes from the Bene Israel community in Mumbai, an Indian Jewish community that goes back to the time of Alexander the Great. Benjamin combines Indian and Jewish themes in her work. Her paintings on view in this exhibition will be heroines of the Old Testament, but they are dressed in Indian garments.
Archie Rand in a set of 60 paintings has recreated the bible stories as a comic book series.
Hanan Harchol was commissioned by The Covenant Foundation and the Foundation for Jewish Culture to create a series of animations on biblical themes without including traditional overtly religious references, but rather presenting the concepts in the setting of a secular conversation to make them accessible to 21st-century audiences.
Marc Malberg’s large paintings focus on some of the most physical and exciting stories in the Old Testament. Malberg says he is inventing an iconography for the Old Testament that will parallel the iconography that artists over the centuries have developed for the New Testament.
Siona Benjamin is originally from Mumbai (Bombay), India. She grew up in a Bene Israel household. The Bene Israel community is an ancient one, dating back to more than 2,000 years. Benjamin was schooled at Hindu and Zoroastrian schools before receiving a degree in painting and metal work in India. She then emigrated to the United States and received a second degree in painting and scenic design from the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana. Now living in New Jersey, Benjamin’s work is widely exhibited. It will be shown this year at the Jerusalem Biennale. A film about Benjamin titled Blue Like Me has been screened at film festivals worldwide. Benjamin found expression for her mixed identities and rootlessness through painting images of biblical heroines who were outcasts–Lilith, Adam’s first wife, abandoned for Eve or Vashti, Ahasueras’s first wife, cast away for Esther in the Purim story. Benjamin creates a magical fusion of Old Testament women, Hindu costumes, Arabic and Hebrew text, and modern historical icons–guns, bombs American flags, and even gas masks. Benjamin’s six foot high banners depicting narratives in which biblical heroines dressed in Indian costumes make decisions that lead to life or death.
Archie Rand recently retired as the Presidential Professor of Art at Brooklyn College. Previously he was the chair of the Visual Arts Department at Columbia University. Rand is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship along with other honors . Since his debut as an artist at 17 years old with an exhibition at the prestigious Tibor de Nagy Gallery, he has since had over 100 solo exhibitions, and his work has been included in over 200 group exhibitions. Rand’s work is in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum, all in New York, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art among many others. Rand works with a combination of words and images. His first exhibition was a set of paintings in which he played with the visual effects of the names of famous jazz musicians. A chance commission to execute murals for a synagogue in Brooklyn, thus creating the first narrative cycle in a synagogue since the 2nd century BC in Dura Europos, brought him to the figurative imagery of the Old Testament. Subsequently, in spite of art world criticism, he has continue to work with this imagery along with his other projects which also are about the word–he has collaborated with some of the United States’ most well known and important poets like Robert Creeley, and John Ashbury. The Rider exhibition will feature Rand’s Sixty Scenes from the Bible, paintings that show famous incidents in the Old Testament but with word bubbles that are Rand’s conception of what the people involved really said to each other.
Helene Aylon is a conceptual artist who describes herself as an eco-feminist. Her work is in the collections of major museums across the United States such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Jewish Museum, New York. She is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York State Council for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has published a memoir in which she describes her engagement with the liberation movements of her time—women from patriarchy, the colonized from colonizer, the earth from nuclear devastation. She came to the Old Testament from a critical perspective which led her to see God as prisoner of patriarchy, not as a force that is inherently patriarchal. She sees her work on the Old Testament as the ultimate liberation: the liberation of God from the singularity of maleness and restoration of God to the realm of women and all human beings. On display in the exhibition will be her 30 foot Wailing Wall, a wall on one side of which is are all the pages of the Old Testament in Hebrew. On the other side is the Old Testament in English.
Hanan Harchol is a video animation artist. Harchol is a graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. With a major grant from the Covenant Foundation, he was able to spend the last three years working on a set of videos that are based on biblical precepts of ethics and morality. Conversations between the artist and his parents are depicted in animated videos through a style based on 20th century German expressionism. They present perspectives on the themes of Envy, Repentance, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Love and Fear, Humility, and Faith. Humorous and initially touching family interactions gradually reveal a deeper study of the human condition. Three of the nine videos will be projected in a continuous loop on one of the walls of the gallery.
Marc Malberg is an orthopedic surgeon who has been drawing and painting for many years. He began by drawing detailed studies of the anatomy he was studying at medical school. Self taught, he has researched the art practices of Renaissance and Baroque painters as well as 20th century artists. He is particularly interested and influenced by surrealism although his style is very much his own. His art practice has evolved into painting large canvases with narrative subjects from the Pentateuch. His intention is to create a series of paintings that will present an Old Testament iconography that is as compelling as the iconography of the New Testament which has inspired artists from the early Christian period into the 20th century. He received his MD degree from Northwestern University and did residencies at New York Presbyterian Orthopedic Hospital. He is a Fellow, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery, American College of Surgeons, and North American Spine Society. He has been in practice for 40 years. His images of Abraham and Isaac, Abraham and Aaron, Moses and the Burning Bush, and Absalom, King David’s son will be on view in the exhibition.
Guest curator for the exhibition is Judith K. Brodsky, well known artist, critic, and curator. She is Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of Visual Arts, Rutgers University. She was the founder of the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions, originally the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, renamed in her honor in 2006, and co-founder of the Rutgers University Institute for Women and Art. She is currently chair of the board of the New York Foundation for the Arts. An artist in her own right, Brodsky’s work is in over 100 permanent collections worldwide. She is one of the authors of the first comprehensive history of the feminist movement in art, The Power of Feminist Art. Active in policy making areas of the visual arts, she has been president of the College Art Association, The national Women’s Caucus for Art, and ArtTable, a national organization of women professionals in the visual arts.