Text by Reba Wulkan, Guest Curator
On view from March 26 – July 30, 2017
As described in Genesis, at the advent of the world, God initiated the very first separation, using the term vayavdel (translated as “and He divided”). The world came into being through a series of divisions: light and darkness, day and night, sea and land, animals and human beings. Separation is intrinsic to the biblical Creation and to the human story, with its geographic, physical and spiritual borders. While the creation narrative applies to all of humankind, a more specific separation is described in the chosenness of Abraham. To be chosen means to be different from everyone else. Abraham is called an ivri and scholars note that through his discovery of monotheism, he separated himself, putting himself on one side, ever echad, and the rest of the world, mi’ever hasheni, on the other side. The story of the Jewish people is fraught with separation and division; at times some Jews have attempted to keep themselves separate; while at other times, it is the rest of the world that has insisted on separation. Individuals and communities are in a tug of war with themselves and with each other, creating boundaries, pushing the limits of borders and attempting to bridge differences. This tension offers a challenge to contemporary artists, who through a variety of art forms explore moral and spiritual challenges, gender identities, ethnic and national origins, geopolitics and tolerance, among other concerns.
In today’s turbulent times, the geopolitical climate of the world seems to be driving people further and further apart. This condition—untampered by humanitarian and ethical considerations—mitigates the hope for peace. Respecting borders and boundaries, while building bridges, offers the possibility of realizing a just and lasting coexistence between nations, ethnicities, genders and religions. Attempting to address such concerns, this exhibition presents works by artists living in the U.S., Israel and Argentina, several of whom are concerned with ideas of spatial boundaries that unite and bring communities together, while others engage with personal borders that have challenged notions of Jewish identity, gender, ethnic or national background; still others confront geographical borders, conceptual and physical walls. Many offer bridges for the sake of humanity.
In Exile, 2015, Andi LaVine Arnovitz addresses loss of home, border crossings and potential bridges to a new life in an installation of fragile porcelain houses encased in silk organza bags. The artist refers to the history of Jews during the Passover exodus, the Babylonian exile and mass deportations during World War II, while also addressing the refugee crisis and persecution of Syrians and Afghans under the domination of ISIS. Her other work, Garments of Reconciliation, 2009, creates a dialogue between Palestinians and Jews in Israel in child-size clothing that combines fabrics from Palestinian embroideries with Jewish prayer vests. Working with factory workers in Ramallah, Arnovitz appropriates and combines traditional garments of male/female, Jew/Palestinian “to create a hopeful framework for positive change,” she has said.
Tova Beck-Friedman’s two videos are about women who confront life’s boundaries: one is about aging and the other is the story of Lot’s wife. In On the Other Side, 2015, Beck-Friedman identifies with a woman’s vanishing youth: “We live within boundaries, some of which are marked and physical, while others are cognitive and implied.” Based on a poem by Natalie H. Rogers, Beck-Friedman points to crossing a threshold in the aging process as if from a distance. Lot’s Wife reveals the social divide between genders. The wife of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, “remains nameless,” while bearing the brunt of the punishment, turning into a pillar of salt. The artist comments: “An integral part of growing up in Israel was absorbing the concepts of the biblical stories as the link to our past. Moving to the U.S. in the 1970s, I was affected by the women’s movement and began probing into and re-defining the myths on which I was raised—linguistically, metaphorically and visually.”
Raised in predominantly Hindu and Muslim India, Siona Benjamin’s work is inspired by traditional miniature painting, Sephardi icons and the Bible. The geographical and spiritual boundaries Benjamin has crossed and her hybrid identity are reflected in a uniquely personal style. She appropriates heroines and goddesses and places them into contemporary scenarios fraught with conflict and evil, acknowledging current hostilities all over the world. In her two paintings from the Finding Home series, Lilith in Pardes, 2008, and Curry-oke, 2000, Benjamin depicts the defiant Lilith, said to be Adam’s first wife, and Kali, associated both with death and motherhood, combining Indian, Jewish and American iconography in a pop art style.
Ken Goldman’s L’lo Reshut, (Without Domain), 2016, relates to a performance in which the artist walked a section of the eruv of his kibbutz community on a tightrope three meters off the ground. The eruv is a symbolic boundary used to unite individual domains into one shared domain, allowing observant Jews, for example, to carry on the Sabbath; its literal meaning is intermingling. By walking the red line with one foot in the collective domain and one foot out, Goldman attempts to unite and find balance within the “new kibbutz” after its members voted to no longer preserve the classic, collective lifestyle they had maintained for nearly 70 years.
Tamar Hirschl’s Strife #4, 2015, is part of a series of paintings on recycled vinyl depicting maps. “In the tradition of Jasper Johns’s Map, 1961, the map of Israel becomes a painting readymade. This has given me an outlet to express the histories of various cultures vying for territory through the formal processes of painting. . . .The green borders [denoting Israel’s pre-1967 border] are conceptualized as permeable barriers, whereas red is a hard margin,” Hirschl has stated. The Star of David is both a reminder of past trauma—the yellow armbands and badges imposed on Jews during the Holocaust—and signifies the future of Jewish identity represented by the green, which symbolizes new growth.
Sara Klar’s Je Suis Juive, I Am You (Talmud Dreds and Tefillin Bindings), 2015, reimagines traditional male prayer phylacteries (tefillin) in a space that allows for both femininity and masculinity, personal choice, individual expression and inclusiveness. Traditional boundaries of gender in religious commandments are central for Klar, who left Orthodox Judaism when she was 21 years old after receiving a Jewish divorce, or get. In defiance of the gender imbalance in the religious power structure, Klar reclaims her connection to religion, her identity as a woman and her relationship to her Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, neighborhood through her work.
In Lunar Eclipse, 2015, Lea Laukstein offers a conceptual bridge between male and female roles, challenging the stereotype of women as mothers and housekeepers eclipsed by their husbands, especially within the religious community. The artist embraces a kabbalistic concept that compares male and female to the sun and moon, respectively. In the video, a mysterious silence pervades an interior bathed in delicate light and shadow. Drawing on her knowledge of traditional painting and of contemporary art, her work is a carefully composed investigation of narratives of identity, religion and gender. In Embryo, 2015, Laukstein pictures the world within the womb, which she describes as “the constant kicking, the movement of fluids, the mother’s heartbeat, the lights and shadows that penetrate through the abdomen and noises heard nearby, from outside the womb,” and reflects on the societal limitations imposed on pregnant women.
David Moss, a master calligrapher and illuminator, depicts a map of the Jewish community in Roaming Rome, 2016, in a succinct, illustrative style arranged like a page of the Talmud. Moss depicts key places and symbols of Jewish contributions to Roman culture, evidence of the Jewish presence in the city dating back 2,150 years, including the Ostia Synagogue, the Arch of Titus, Jewish catacombs and the walled Ghetto, among others. “It is an example of world persecution, European bestiality and man’s degradation of the Jews going back to ancient times,” Moss has said.
Laura Murlender’s painting Tracing Path, 2016, reflects a life’s journey of building emotional walls to protect the self, bridging connections with the past and crossing geographic borders between Argentina, Israel, Mexico, France and the U.S. Murlender’s experience as a “disappeared” under the former dictatorship in Argentina informs her exploration of personal and collective transitions and the construction of memory and identity. Sequence, 2016, uses abstract geometric patterns expressed through layers of oil and mixed media where emerging lines and patterns resonate with the sensitive place of past itineraries. Reinforced by the structural grid format, her visual language reinforces a blending of time and place. Her work expresses movement and fragmented time within the grid format meant to establish boundaries and barriers consistent with her personal history of repression and resilience.
Flo Razowsky combines art with activism and has been photographing international border walls and fences since 2002. Her project, entitled Up Against the Wall, began while Razowsky was living in the Palestinian territories and witnessed the construction of a 500-mile-long, 25-foot-high border wall. In 2008, she began to document other such walls, including between Ukraine/Slovakia, Serbia/Croatia, Mexico/U.S. and Morocco/Spanish Melilla. Razowsky has observed that such walls are ubiquitous and in many places people regularly risk imprisonment or death to try and cross them. Her photographs “show this world to those of us who benefit the most, those of us not forced up against the walls of this life,” she explains.
Andrea Robbins and Max Becher’s Following the Ten Commandments: Lyon County Courthouse, Yerington, NV, 2012-2014, is part of a series that presents an ironic paradox between public buildings and religious monuments, despite the separation of church and state. The artists have been photographing Ten Commandments monuments on public land: at courthouses, public schools, parks and county seats across the U.S. Many of these religious monuments are or have been under legal dispute. Some have remained in place for many years and were gifted by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles in conjunction with the release of the 1956 fi lm The Ten Commandments and were suggested by the film’s director Cecil B. DeMille.
Ben Schachter’s Architectural Follies of the Talmud, 2014, are playful renderings of Talmudic commentary. The title refers to the follies popular in European landscapes in the 18th and 19th century. These small, built curiosities that punctuated rolling gardens often resembled ruined Greek temples. As Schachter describes them: “My Follies envision the strange spatial questions the Rabbis encountered. Each one is numbered corresponding to the daf, or page of Talmud, it envisions. For example, Architectural Folly 2A depicts several doorways, the most basic element of an eruv. If the lintel, the bar that runs across the top, is tilted or otherwise looks like it is collapsing, well, it is not a door. . . . Some think of the Eruv as a fence, but I like to think of it as a garden wall. . . .”
Ruth Schreiber created An Oscar for my Daughter, the Surrogate, 2015, to recognize her daughter’s selfless act in becoming a surrogate for another family. In creating the bronze sculpture, the artist stretches the boundaries of Jewish religious law (Halacha) and human emotions. She explains: “We were speechless at first, but since then have been bursting with pride, . . .” as she and her husband observed the physical and spiritual demands placed on their daughter and then how she handed “over this miracle gift and then quietly” continued “with her own life.” Schreiber’s Enter the Eruv, 2011, is an interactive glass map of the North West London eruv that engages the viewer with motion sensors and lights. Until recently, there were no eruvim in the United Kingdom. However, a new awareness in society and religious feminism in the Jewish community precipitated a change and an 11-mile eruv was created in 2003. Based on text from Genesis, the watercolor Abraham’s Aliya, 2016, maps the journey that Abraham took from Ur Kaśdim into Canaan along with a list of the countries from which Jews have immigrated to Israel.
Angela Strassheim is fascinated with rituals of praying throughout the world. In her photograph Saugy Praying, 2008, a young Jewish girl finds a spot to pray on one side of a wall in a community housing settlement in central Israel, known as Yad Binyamin. Saugy has carved out a personal space among these impersonal, prefabricated buildings. The artist explains that the young girl, who was 13 at the time, loved to pray and learn Torah. She elaborates: “In the evenings the men from the community would line up on the sidewalk on the other side of the wall surrounding Saugy’s apartment home. . . . They would pray on one side and she on the other.” Then Strassheim would wait until the men left to photograph Saugy, which lends a sense of voyeurism to the scene both because of the presence of the photographer and of the viewer of her image.
Ahuva Winslow’s Creation: Separation, 2017, reflects on the separations of Creation. The divine process of division and separation is a theme repeated throughout Creation, both of the world and of man and woman. The artist uses bands of color that frame the canvas along with organic forms that flow within the center of the work to suggest continuous flux—from the creation of the physical world to the boundaries that Jewish law mandates throughout one’s life. She reflects on the borders of identity and the struggles presented to her in life as an Orthodox Jewish woman artist.
Pavel Wolberg’s Tel Aviv, Purim, 2015, captures the diverse cultures in Tel Aviv’s clubs in the context of the Jewish holiday of Purim. The masquerades of Purim—a holiday that celebrates survival—provide a rare occasion where dressing up as the opposite sex is permissible. It has been said about Wolberg’s work that he is able to view his adopted country both intimately and from a distance, and to capture the private moments amidst the complex reality of conflicts and political instability in the region. He captures war, terror, occupation, army, intifada, Ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic communities, downtown Tel Aviv, religious and secular in large, even panoramic, formats.
Andi LaVine Arnovitz was born in 1959 and raised in Kansas City, MO. She earned a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis and immigrated to Israel in 1999; Arnovitz is a printmaker, paper-manipulator, bookmaker and assemblage artist and has worked in all media. Her work has been shown in Europe, Israel, Canada, China, the U.S. and Eastern Europe. www.andiarnovitz.com
Tova Beck-Friedman was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, studied in the U.S. and Japan and works and lives in New York City as an artist, filmmaker, curator and writer. Her work has been shown internationally in festivals, museums and galleries, including Grounds for Sculpture, Yeshiva University Museum, Newark Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts and The Shoah Film Collection. www.tbfstudio.com
Siona Benjamin is from Bombay, India, and lives in New Jersey. Born in 1969, she received her first MFA in painting and a second in theater set design. She has exhibited in the U.S., Europe and Asia. She was awarded two Fulbright Fellowships: Faces: Weaving Indian Jewish Narratives and Motherland to Fatherland: Indian Transcultural Jews. She is represented by ACA Galleries in New York. www.artsiona.com
Ken Goldman was born in Memphis, TN, in 1960, and studied at Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College. In 1985, he moved to Kibbutz Shluchot in the Beit Shean area in Israel; he is an observant Jew and artist. His mixed media works have been shown in Israel, Europe and the U.S. and are in both private and public collections. www.kengoldmanart.com
Tamar Hirschl was born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1939, and immigrated to Tel Aviv. She lives there and in New York. Hirschl has degrees from Lesley College and Cambridge University, and also studied in Israel at the State College of Art, Kalisher School of Art and Bezalel School of Art. Her work has been exhibited at museums in Israel, Europe and the U.S. www.tamarhirschl.com
Sara Klar was born in New York in 1959, studied at Brooklyn College, Barnard and Columbia University and has had solo exhibitions and group exhibitions in many local galleries in the New York area, including the Abrazzo Interno Gallery, My Sense of Place, A Virtual Art Exhibition, Pierro Foundation and Seton Hall University Walsh Gallery; and Techingsmuseet (Museum of Drawings), Prime Matter, Laholm, Sweden. www.SaraKlar.com
Lea Laukstein was born in 1986 in Valka, Latvia, converted to Judaism and lives in Israel. She is a multimedia artist, who works in video art, sound, installation and sculpture. Laukstein studied classical art in Latvia and at Emunah College of Arts and Technology, Jerusalem, and Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Ramat Gan, Israel. She also studied new media in Jerusalem at The Naggar School of Art. www.youtube.com/user/LeaLaukstein
David Moss was born in Youngstown, OH, in 1946, and moved to Jerusalem in 1983. He studied at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, and had residencies at Judah Magnes Museum, San Francisco, and Mishkenot Shaanaim, Jerusalem. Moss has created hundreds of privately-commissioned illuminated marriage contracts and Jewish manuscripts and has received the Israel Museum’s Jesselson Prize for contemporary Judaica. www.bet-alphaeditions.com
Laura Murlender was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1957. She was a “disappeared,” kidnapped in 1976 when the country was under military rule, and was sent to Israel after she was liberated. She has also lived in France and Mexico and graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, and the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and was awarded many art and photography awards. www.lauramurlender.com
Flo Razowsky was born in Chicago in 1974 and lives in Los Angeles. Her project Up Against the Wall began in 2002 while she was living in the Palestinian territories and witnessed the construction of the border wall in the West Bank. She has continued to photograph borders between Ukraine/Slovakia, Serbia/Croatia, Mexico/U.S. and Morocco/Spanish Melilla, among others. Her work has been exhibited in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Arizona and many online venues. www.flowalksfree.com
Andrea Robbins and Max Becher are based in New York and have been working collaboratively since 1984. Becher was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1964 and Robbins in Boston, MA, in 1963. Their photo-based conceptual artwork is in the collections of museums in Europe and across the U.S., including the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Both artists earned their BFA at Cooper Union; Robbins earned her MFA at Hunter College in New York City, and Becher received his MFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. They are represented by Sonnabend Gallery, New York. www.robbinsbecher.com
Ben Schachter was born in 1974 in New York, lives in Pittsburgh and is professor of visual art at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, PA. He earned MFA and MS degrees from Pratt Institute; received the Hadassah Brandeis research award; and has been exhibited at Yale University, Yeshiva University Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, the Mattress Factory and other venues throughout the U.S. www.benschachter.com
Ruth Schreiber was born in London in 1947 and lives and works in Jerusalem. She studied art in London and California and at the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem. Her work is in private collections in the U.K, the U.S. and Israel, and in the Ben Uri Gallery, London, the Jerusalem Print Workshop, the Ein Harod Museum of Art and Yad Vashem Museum, Israel. www.ruthschreiber.com
Angela Strassheim was born in 1969 in Bloomfield, IA, and lives and works in Connecticut. She has a BFA in Media Arts from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, a forensic and biomedical photography certifi cation and received her MFA in photography from Yale University. Strassheim has exhibited nationally and internationally, including in the Whitney Biennial and Re-Generation: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow at the Musée d’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland. www.angelastrassheim.com
Ahuva Winslow was born in New York in 1978 and lives in Bergenfield, NJ. She was a Keith Haring scholar for art education, graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and is Director of Visual Arts at the Frisch School in Paramus, NJ. Her work was exhibited at the Belskie Museum of Art and Science in Closter, NJ, The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Bronx, NY, Westbeth Gallery and Yeshiva University Museum. www.ahuvamalka.com
Pavel Wolberg was born in 1966 in Leningrad, USSR (now Saint Petersburg, Russia). An artist and former photojournalist, he immigrated to Israel in 1973 and graduated from the Camera Obscura School of Art in Tel Aviv. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Jewish Museum, Berlin, Jewish Museum, New York, and George Eastman House. He is represented by Dvir Art Gallery, Tel Aviv, and by Meislin Projects, New York. www.pavelwolberg.com
Checklist of the Exhibition
All works courtesy of the artist unless otherwise indicated.
Andi LaVine Arnovitz (born Kansas City, MO, 1959; lives and works in Jerusalem)
Porcelain, linen cord and silk, dimensions variable, each house, 4 x 4 3/4 in.
Garments of Reconciliation, 2009
Egyptian cotton, digital scans on linen and embroidery threads, each, 24 3/8 x 12 in.
Tova Beck-Friedman (born Tel Aviv, Israel; lives and works in New York City)
Lot’s Wife, 2011
Digital video, 4 min.
On the Other Side, 2015
Digital video, 6 min.
Courtesy Tova Beck-Friedman, Director
Siona Benjamin (born Bombay, India, 1969: lives and works in New Jersey)
Finding Home #99: “Lilith in Pardes,” 2008
Gouache on museum board, 10 3/8 x 7 1/2 in.
Finding Home #40: “Curry-oke,” 2000
Gouache and gold leaf on paper, 20 1/2 x 15 in.
Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York
Ken Goldman (born Memphis, TN, 1960; lives and works in Bet Shean, Israel)
L’lo Reshut (Without Domain), 2016
Digital print, 43 1/4 x 55 1/8 in.
Tamar Hirschl (born Zagreb, Croatia, 1939; lives and works in Tel Aviv, New York and Jersey City, NJ)
Strife #4, 2015
Acrylic on repurposed vinyl, 50 x 34 in.
Sara Klar (born Far Rockaway, NY, 1959; lives and works in Brooklyn)
Je Suis Juive, I Am You (Talmud Dreds and Tefillin Bindings), 2015-2017
Acrylic, Talmud pages, phylacteries (tefillin) case and straps and mixed media on canvas, 5 x 7 ft. 3 in. x 8 in.
Lea Laukstein (born Valka, Latvia, 1986; lives and works in Lod, Israel)
Lunar Eclipse, 2015
Digital video, 6.5 min.
Digital video, 5 min.
David Moss (born Youngstown, OH, 1946; lives and works in Jerusalem)
Roaming Rome, 2016
Giclée print, 20 x 18 in.
Courtesy Bet Alpha Editions
Laura Murlender (born Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1957; lives and works in Buenos Aires)
Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in.
Tracing Path, 2016
Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in.
Flo Razowsky (born Chicago, 1974; lives and works in Los Angeles)
Melilla (Spanish border at Morocco), 2007
Digital photograph on microfiber, 5 x 5 ft.
Playas de Tijuana (southern U.S. border), 2014
Digital photograph on microfiber, 5 x 5 ft.
Digital photograph on microfiber, 5 x 5 ft.
Andrea Robbins and Max Becher (born Boston, MA, 1963, and Dusseldorf, Germany, 1964; live and work in New York)
Following the Ten Commandments: Lyon County Courthouse, Yerington, NV, 2012–2014
Mesh print, 6 x 8 ft.
Courtesy Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, Sonnabend Gallery
Ben Schachter (born New York City, 1974; lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA)
Architectural Folly 2A, 2014
Marker, acrylic and vellum on paper, 20 x 16 in.
Architectural Folly 11A, 2014
Marker, acrylic and vellum on paper, 20 x 16 in.
Architectural Folly 11B, 2014
Marker, acrylic and vellum on paper, 20 x 16 in.
Architectural Folly 16A, 2014
Marker, acrylic and vellum on paper, 20 x 16 in.
Ruth Schreiber (born London, 1947; lives and works in Jerusalem)
Enter the Eruv, 2011
Tempered glass, Perspex, motion sensors and LEDs, 5 1/2 x 43 1/4 x 36 1/4 in.
An Oscar for my Daughter the Surrogate, 2015
Bronze, 14 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 6 1/4 in.
Abraham’s Aliya, 2016
Watercolor, pencil and ink, 13 3/4 x 19 5/8 in.
Angela Strassheim (born Bloomfield, IA, 1969; lives and works in Stamford, CT)
Saugy Praying, 2008
Digital print, 24 x 30 in.
Ahuva Winslow (born New York, 1978; lives and works in Bergenfield, NJ)
Creation: Separation, 2017
Oil on canvas, 56 x 56 in.
Pavel Wolberg (born Leningrad, USSR, now Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1966; lives and works in Tel Aviv)
Tel Aviv, Purim, 2015
Digital print, 51 1/4 x 62 3/4 in.
Courtesy Meislin Projects
As a member of the American Alliance of Museums, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale by RiverSpring Health is committed to publicly exhibiting its art collection throughout its 32-acre campus including Derfner Judaica Museum and a sculpture garden overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection provide educational and cultural programming for residents of the Hebrew Home, their families and the general public from throughout New York City, its surrounding suburbs and visitors from elsewhere. RiverSpring Health is a nonprofit, non-sectarian geriatric organization serving more than 12,000 older adults in greater New York through its resources and community service programs. Museum hours: Sunday–Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Art Collection and grounds open daily, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
5901 Palisade Avenue
Riverdale, New York 10471
This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.