Ori Z. Soltes’ Ontogeny of Light

Jewish Art Salon Advisor Ori Z. Soltes has a new publication out:

Ontogeny of Light ~ Apples, Suns, Mirrors, Electricities – Limitless Light, Oscillating Silences, Immersive Realms: The Art of Alex Shalom Kohav

The artist, philosopher, poet, mystic, and, most fundamentally, creative thinker, Alex Shalom Kohav has produced an extraordinary and varied body of visual work during the past four decades. His medium has described a gradual shift from paintings, through an array of wall installations devised largely of pulsating light configurations, and culminating with an increasingly ambitious series of participatory 3-D installations, in which an entire gallery space is occupied by elements that typically include diverse kinds of pulsating lights, video loops, soundtracks, mannequins, and other paraphernalia—and obligate the viewer to leave behind a role as passive observer in favor of becoming an active participant in the work, and thus, in effect, joining with the artist to complete his creation. Kohav draws from the kabbalah, from philosophy to statements of the New Age, from Chinese and Egyptian art and the sweep of Western art.

He extends visual ideas that have their starting point in works as varied as those at Lascaux and those of Leonardo da Vinci and the French Impressionists. Themes repeat, however transformed, from the first painting to the most recent installation—such as light as both an outcome and a source of color, and as an instrument and symbol of Truth and the search for truth. Interspersed with Soltes’ narrative that assesses Kohav’s art within the diversely constructed frame of his biography is the depiction of his simultaneous engagement of words, in particular the manifestos that articulate the artist’s ever-evolving insights on life, art, and the human enterprise.

Ontogeny of Light is the first full-scale and close-up look at Kohav’s lifelong journey as an artist. It analyzes and assesses the complex, often exceptional turns that the artist’s work takes in synthesizing an extraordinary range of ideas and in constructing a series of fascinating worlds into which the viewer—who is, increasingly, the participant—steps to think and feel along the path of transformation. The book contains over 100 photographic images; a proposal by Ori Z. Soltes for the Kohav Museum of Kabbalistic Art (KMoKA); and the “Artist’s Afterword” presenting an intellectual and spiritual autobiographical sketch that offers an idiosyncratic view of the artist’s life and his mind. Kohav envisions a Museum of Limitless Light (MoLL) in Israel and a “(W)Rap-SoDa-in-Blue” Museum of Participatory Art—or (W)RapMoPA—in America, both based on his art.


ORI Z. SOLTES teaches at Georgetown University across a range of disciplines, from theology and art history to philosophy and political history. He has also taught at Johns Hopkins University, Cleveland State University, Siegel College, and Case Western Reserve University. Soltes has lectured at dozens of museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is the former director and curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, DC, where he curated over eighty exhibitions. Soltes has authored scores of books, articles, exhibition catalogs, and essays on diverse topics, including Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draw from the Same Source; Mysticism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Searching for Oneness; and Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture.

In a sensitive and erudite analysis, Soltes skillfully blends psychology and aesthetics to creatively capture the exhaustive arc of Kohav’s artistic intentions. Ranging from science to poetry, painting to Kabbalah, installations to postmodern philosophy, Soltes nails the many essences of this multifaceted creative hurricane. Truly an epic monograph!

– Richard McBee, Artist and Critic

Playful, ironic and brave, the work of Alex Kohav represents a unique spirit simply not found in contemporary American Art. His is a European sensibility addressing art, science and religion with equal zeal, laying bare all three traditions. His career began with an almost Romantic aesthetic, to now one of expanded authorship where audiences participate in the creative process. His entire oeuvre questions the inflated and self- important nature of our culture, while asserting a radical other urgently needing to be communicated.

– Joel Silverstein, Artist, Curator, Critic, Steering Committee Member – Jewish Art Salon, New York

In this “serious joyride in art, religion and spirituality,” Ori Z. Soltes provides brilliant insights as he charts Alexander Kohav’s moves from painting canvasses to creating environments into which the viewer is invited to become an active participant in order for the work to be completed. Kohav the creator is both artist and philosopher. His shift away from the ‘representational’ nature of even abstract painting, to direct presentation, brings up the question of what art is, and what its role is in human history. This book touches on many exciting issues, and is a great source for both the lay person and those well-versed in contemporary art.

– Yona Verwer, Artist and Director of the Jewish Art Salon, New York