Monday, February 3, 2014

Four Free Lectures on Jewish Art and Architecture by Sam Gruber

Four Free Lectures on Jewish Art and Architecture by Sam Gruber

As it happens I'll be giving five talks and lectures on Jewish topics in Syracuse and Dewitt this month hand next.  Four are deal specifically with Jewish art and architecture and are free and open to the public.  

In addition, this Wednesday (February 5th), I'll be speaking about Jews and the Civil War at Syracuse Stage in conjunction with the current production of The Whipping Man, a play by Matthew Lopez, before the 2 pm matinee performance.

Here is information about talks at congregation Beth Sholom-Cheva Shas (February 16) and Temple Adath Yeshuran (March 9, 23, 30)

Sunday, February 16, 2014  (10:30 AM)

Sponsored By CBS-CS HAZAK, Men’s Club, Women’s Connection (Sisterhood)

Great Synagogues of the World

Jews are the “People of Book”, but surprisingly to many, they are also “People of the Building.”  Given the opportunity, Jews have built beautiful synagogues for their communities for hundreds of years.  Inspired by the detailed architectural accounts in the Bible, and also by their contemporary surroundings, Jews in many places have fulfilled the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah (glorify the commandment) through architecture and architectural decoration.  Great synagogues have been built in Europe of since Middle Ages, but especially since the lavish inauguration of the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam in the late 17th century the stream of impressive Jewish buildings has continued with little interruption on every inhabited continent throughout the world.  This lecture illustrates this architectural and artistic heritage with historic and contemporary images, and traces its survival in the 21st century with special emphasis on lesser known “great synagogues,” on recently restored buildings, and on some of the newest synagogues built.

Three Lectures on Jewish Art:  Between Modernity and Modernism

Temple Adath Yeshuran (450 Kimber Rd, Syracuse, NY 13224)

The 19th century was a transformative period in Jewish art.  It was the century when Jewish art and art by Jews moved from the synagogue and the home into the public sphere.   These three lectures address different aspects of the new development in a variety of setting as Jews encountered new media (oil painting, sculpture and photography) and experimented with new themes and styles.

Sunday, March 9, 2014 (refreshment 9:30 AM; lecture at 10:00 AM)

Jewish Artistic Identity and a New Jewish Art: 1825  -1925

Following the French Revolution, Jews gradually achieved more and more political freedom in Europe, and by 1825 many Jews had received secular educations and begun to participate in broad cultural and artistic activities.  Jews attended art, design and architecture schools and began to compete in open competitions, and also for private commissions.  Throughout a growing number of artists attended painting academies and exhibited in public exhibition.  While much of their work reflect popular taste and common secular and even Christian religious themes, they also produced a body of work based on the Hebrew Bible, synagogue life and the Jewish in which they were raised and sometimes still were grounded.  By the end of the 19th century, academically trained artists were most overtly addressing Jewish social and political themes in their art as well as religious traditions.  In the independent studios of the early 20th century many of these trends continued, though styles changes.  Many Jewish artists actively engaged in and promoted new art styles including impressionism, Art Nouveau, cubism, fauvism, expressionism and constructivism – sometimes distancing themselves from all things Jewish, and sometimes building on Jewish themes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014 (refreshment 9:30 AM; lecture at 10:00 AM)

Describing Jews: Photography of Jews and Jewish Photographers


Art and ethnography came together in the first part of the 20th century as Jewish photographers began to document traditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.  Some of the intent was preserve memories of a culture that was clearly changing; another part was already nostalgia – something Jewish painters had already pioneered.  From America, Jewish charities hired photographers to document the needy conditions of Jews in order to help promote aid programs and stimulate private contributions.   But Jewish artists – including many women – embraced photographer for its experimental and expressive qualities, too, and Jewish photographers joined the new artistic avante-garde of Expressionism, Constructivism and Dada, and also the new field of photo-journalism. In the post-World War II period, American Jewish photographers turned their camera on themselves and their more immediate environment.  The New York School of photographers blended autobiography, existentialism and a gritty realism to present a more varied look at American than found in advertising and the mainstream media.

Sunday, March 30, 2014 (refreshment 9:30 AM; lecture at 10:00 AM)

Recent Trends in Jewish Art: Who is Jewish and Whose Judaism?

In the past three decades Jewish art – and Jewish artists as become self-aware.  New museums and galleries, and lectures like these have once again stirred debate about what is “Jewish art?”  Post-war Jewish artists grew up in a world where Judaism was often defined by the Holocaust and Israel.  But many artists raised on pop art, comic books and TV, and having also witnessed the civil rights movement, ethnic politics, feminism and other group empowerment programs, have pushed traditional definitions of Jewish art to include new media and a whole new range of subject matter.  Importantly, they have been quick to identify their work as Jewish or even “too Jewish” and have used irony and often irreverent humor to address questions of religious, cultural and ethnic identity.  This lecture looks are some of the many and often competing trends and some of the most accomplished and sometimes provocative artists.

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