Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture

Ori_Soltes_CoverOri Z. Soltes’ new book was recently published and is available here on Amazon.

This magnum opus of 630 pages is currently available as a black & white edition. The two-volume full-color edition will be available in a few months.

Not only are many Jewish Art Salon artists represented in this book, it ends with our exhibition The Dura Europos Project, completed in 2011, which was shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art and the UJA-NY Gallery.

“The most informative and comprehensive book on Jewish art! Jam-packed with information and ideas, this is an absolute must-have for every bookshelf.”

—    YONA VERWER, artist and President, Jewish Art Salon

“Mr. Soltes has done a staggering job in charting the 3000-year trajectory of Jewish Art, a topic often misrepresented and misunderstood. But he actually has done much more than that. He has successfully articulated the historical, religious and cultural currents whereby a new Jewish Art has forthrightly emerged.”
—    JOEL SILVERSTEIN, artist, curator, art critic and theorist
“Magisterial, contentious and insightful, Soltes has produced a significant reexamination of 3000 years of Jewish Visual creativity. This intellectual journey traces the Jewish encounter with the sacred in art, pointedly focusing on the significance of contemporary Jewish Art.  A triumph for all Jewish culture!”
—    RICHARD McBEE, artist and critic

This unique volume addresses the idea of Jewish art and architecture by posing and responding to a series of questions. These begin with the unresolved conceptual definition of “Jewish” and the consequent complication attached to any noun—literature, art, music, dance, thought—to which that adjective is appended.

The questions continue with the complex matter of historical definition: Abraham was called a Hebrew; Moses and David were Israelites; Ezra was a Judaean. How are these terms related to and different from the terms “Jew” and “Jewish” and where, accordingOri_Soltes_Backly, must one place Israelite and Judaean art and architecture within the understanding of Jewish art and architecture? The narrative further asks: when one uses the phrase “Jewish art and architecture,” is the basis for employing that adjective the work of art or the identity of the artist? If the former, is the criterion subject, style, symbol, purpose? If the latter, is it the artist’s convictions that are being labeled “Jewish”—does he or she need to be consciously trying to make “Jewish” art? Is the artist-based definition affected by birth or conversion: does an artist who converts into or out of Judaism suddenly begin to make Jewish art or cease to make Jewish art?

Soltes is an Advisor to the Jewish Art Salon. He teaches in the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, and is the former Director and Curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum. He has curated over eighty exhibitions, and is the author of several hundred articles, essays and books, including Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draws from the Same Source and The Ashen Rainbow, Essays on the Arts and the Holocaust.

Jewish Art Salon members whose work was published and reviewed in the book:

Helene Aylon, Siona Benjamin, Bruria Finkel, Tobi Kahn, Robert Kirschbaum, Richard McBee, Mark Podwal, Lia Lynn Rosen, Susan Schwalb, Archie Rand, Joel Silverstein, Yona Verwer, Joyce Ellen Weinstein, Ruth Weisberg.

Current Jewish Art Salon members who were mentioned in The Dura Europos Project foot note (in addition to the artists mentioned above):

Ellen Alt, Cheselyn Amato, Alan Falk, Sandra Indig, Rachel Kanter, Batya F. Kuncman, Stacy Leeman, Ellen Deitell Newman, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Ruth Schreiber, Brian Shapiro, Susan Shender, Adele Shtern, Miriam Stern, Elke Reva Sudin, David Wander.



7 responses to “Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture”

  1. […] year we were mentioned in Hadassah Magazine, and the NY Jewish Week. In his 630 page volumeTradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and ArchitectureOri Z. Soltes wrote extensively about the Jewish […]

  2. nancycurrent Avatar

    Congratulations and much gratitude to Ori Soltes for this fabulous reference/history-making book! We will be using it out here in the Great Northwest as Robin Atlas and I work with others to bring visual midrash and more Jewish art to our part of the world. It will be exciting to see the work of JAS members in the book- I’m waiting for the color edition. May it have every success!

  3. suzannemasksglobal Avatar

    Wonderful news. Big congrats to Ori and all who are featured in this book.
    Suzanne Benton

  4. Joel Silverstein Avatar

    I wish to also comment that the book TRADITION AND TRANSFORMATION: THREE MILLENNIA OF JEWISH ART AND ARCHITECTURE by Ori Z. Soltes, ends with The Dura Europos Project , completed in 2011, which was shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art (Wendi Furman, Curator) and UJA NY (Anna Rachmansky, Director). I conceived and co-curated this work with Richard McBee and this was a Jewish Art Salon Project with Yona Verwer, President. The work was based on Dura Europos, a Roman- era Synagogue. Ori discusses the original synagogue at the beginning of the book, but closes his massive volume with our project, as a paradigmatic work of contemporary Jewish Art. 49 artists participated, creating their interpretations of the original Jewish Greco-Roman artworks. I was never so gratified as seeing the project in Ori’s book. Congrats and thanks to Ori and to everyone involved.

  5. Gloria Orenstein Avatar
    Gloria Orenstein

    Dear Yona, I wrote a comment yesterday. I don’t see it printed here. I think it might have been on Facebook. I am just writing to say that I am so excited to be able to purchase this book, and read through it to get Up to Speed—with all the developments that have occurred since the creation of The Jewish Art Salon. I am sure I’ll find many of my friends in the book—you, Siona, Susan Schwal (I assume) and maybe Helene Aylon and others. It’s very exciting to have been an outside observer to all you have done. I am so proud of all of you. It is like a dream come true–never again can people say that the Jews have no art because it is an anti-iconic tradition that prohibits making images. !! We have a proud history, and it’s getting to be prouder every day. May it all continue, and may we have peace on Earth sooooooon . Love, Gloria Orenstein

    1. Yona Verwer Avatar

      Dear Gloria,
      I got both your Facebook and JAS message, and am thrilled to hear from you. Yes, many of our mutual artist friends / Jewish Art Salon members are in Ori’s book, and next week I will compile a list of names.

      Thank you for your very kind comments!
      You have witnessed the Salon growing from a casual local NY group to the large international group it is now. It has been a team effort, and I owe much to artists like Tobi Kahn, Siona Benjamin, Richard McBee, Joel Silverstein and Bob Kirschbaum.
      The Jewish Art Salon will have an exhibit in your neck of the woods next month! An exchange exhibit with the Jewish Artists Initiative. High Holiday-themed exhibit at the Hillel USC in Los Angeles. Hope you’ll have a chance to see it. An email with more info will go out next week.

  6. DovBerMarchette Avatar

    Art is the verb; Jew is a noun!