Archie Rand, the Jewish Michelangelo? by Menachem Wecker
A must-read article in Mosaic Magazine!
“Michelangelo had a thousand years of Catholic art to build on when creating the Sistine Chapel. Jews haven’t had such a tradition, until a secular Jew from Brooklyn stepped up.
I often joke that I wish I could become Catholic just for the art. When visiting the Florence Baptistry or St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, I want to feel that the art is mine—that Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, and I are landslayt. But I have never experienced a Jewish space as majestic as those.
Does anything come close? Perhaps the Brooklyn Sephardi synagogue B’nai Yosef, where the American Jewish artist Archie Rand, now seventy-three, covered some 13,000 (or 18,000, depending on who’s counting) square feet of walls with murals. Indeed, having followed Rand’s work closely for twenty years, I believe his serial paintings represent one of Jewish art history’s most unique and ambitious bodies of work, and that synagogue is the nearest thing I know to a Jewish Sistine Chapel. OK, maybe the murals there are not quite so marvelous as the Sistine frescoes, but they’re also more than double the scale, and Rand was eight years younger than Michelangelo was, twenty-five rather than thirty-three. Plus he got it done faster, taking three years starting in 1974, instead of Michelangelo’s four.”