“Reading the Visual / Visualizing the Text,” Major Art Exhibition Opens at JTS

Press Contact: Eve Glasberg
Office: (212) 678-8089
Email: evglasberg@jtsa.edu

December 12, 2012, New York, NY

The Arts Advisory Board of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) is pleased to announce the opening of Reading the Visual / Visualizing the Text, a landmark inaugural art exhibition that will be on view at JTS from January 22 through May 29, 2013. The opening reception with remarks by the artists will take place on Thursday, January 31, 2013, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at JTS. Admission is free, but RSVP is required. To RSVP—and for additional information—please contact Joan Goodman, director of Lay Leadership at JTS, at jogoodman@jtsa.edu or (212) 678-8861, or RSVP at www.jtsa.edu/2013artopening.

Reading the Visual / Visualizing the Text is the first exhibition organized by the Arts Advisory Board, which JTS Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen established for the purpose of creating and sustaining arts initiatives throughout JTS's five schools. The exhibition challenges a community traditionally steeped in text to consider a visual vocabulary with which to expand the boundaries and depths of its scholarly methods and experiential practices. It suggests that the visual can be an alternative way to approach both Jewish learning and experience in an academic setting and at large.

In this exhibition, site-specific installations by five contemporary artists forge a collective path through JTS, inviting students, faculty, staff, and visitors to see Jewish texts and traditions—and the academic and sacred spaces of the JTS campus as well—in ways that will inspire classroom discussions and student projects. The installations by Danielle Durchslag, Tobi Kahn, Rachel Kanter, Jill Nathanson, and Ben Rubin are paired with facsimiles of manuscripts and photographs from the world-renowned JTS Library and its Rare Book Room collections.

"Art is a quintessential expression of the human spirit, and so of the Jewish spirit," says Chancellor Eisen. "It is a major entry point into our tradition, our history, and our faith. Like ritual, art stirs and elicits parts of ourselves that rational thought processes cannot reach. Like prayer, it helps the spirit soar, and is a way of reaching deep into the self. Art is a path to the sacred and the soul that we walk with pleasure, a portal to Jewish community and Jewish meaning that one cannot walk through often enough."

The Artists

Durchslag makes objects that look like photographs but are actually crafted from hundreds of pieces of hand-cut paper. For Reading the Visual, she creates a two-part installation, intermingling images of unidentified historical figures from JTS's archives with reconstructed paper-cut portraits of her own ancestors, and re-curates historical photographs of JTS life. Durchslag holds an MA from New York University and a BA from Wellesley College, and has exhibited her work throughout the United States and abroad. She lives and works in New York City.

Tobi Kahn
exhibits paintings in Reading the Visual that respond to images from The JTS Library's Rare Book Room collections selected by Sharon Liberman-Mintz, The Library's Jewish art curator. Kahn earned an MFA from Pratt Institute and a BA from Hunter College. His paintings, sculptures, and ceremonial objects have appeared in more than 50 solo exhibitions, and are included in major museum, corporate, and private collections. He is a recipient of the Cultural Achievement Award for the Visual Arts from the Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Rachel Kanter reenvisions Jewish ritual garments through quilting and embroidery to connect her story as a woman with her story as a Jew. At JTS, Kanter explores women's roles in Judaism in an installation for the Women's League Seminary Synagogue, which she populates with a minyan (usually a prayer group of 10 individuals) of her pieced and embroidered prayer shawls (tallit). Kanter received an MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Crafts and a BFA from Syracuse University. Her piece, Fringed Garment, is in the permanent collection of The Jewish Museum, New York.

Jill Nathanson takes up the challenge of "visualizing the text" in paintings from her series Seeing Sinai: Meditations on Exodus 33–4 (2005). The product of considerable text study and conversations with JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen, her works push the viewer to consider how the visual can shape textual interpretation. Nathanson received an MFA from Hunter College and a BA from Bennington College. She has been exhibiting her abstract paintings in solo and group shows in New York galleries—and internationally—since 1981. Her work may be found in many public and private collections.

Ben Rubin, a light and media artist, creates a dynamic video installation in JTS's vaulted entry lobby, using computer software to isolate and abstract the shapes that make up the talmudic page. Here, the artist pairs his abstractions with talmudic texts from the JTS Library's Rare Book Room collections. Rubin earned an MS from the MIT Media Lab and a BA from Brown University. His work is in many museum collections and has been shown in the United States and internationally. He has created several large-scale public artworks for the New York Times, the Public Theater, and the National Museum of American Jewish History, among others.

Chancellor Eisen established The Jewish Theological Seminary's Arts Advisory Board in spring 2011 for the purpose of creating and sustaining arts initiatives throughout JTS's five schools: Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies (undergraduate); William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education; The Graduate School; The Rabbinical School; and H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music. Together with JTS faculty and lay leaders, the board consists of artists and other professionals from a variety of visual, musical, performing, and literary arts organizations, businesses, and foundations across the United States. Its mission focuses on programs and projects with distinct creative and educational objectives that can be integrated throughout JTS curricula.

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