You might wonder what birds have to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but for Lauren Pressler, one of four Jewish artists in the exhibition TRADITION! (as uttered by Zero Mostel in “Fiddler on the Roof”) at the (RAC), it makes perfect sense.
“There is a pulsating tradition of both war and peace in ancient and modern Judaism,” she explains. “Today, those in favor of a militarized Israeli state can be seen as hawks, and those who advocate passivity can be seen as doves.”
In her piece Spears into Pruning Shears, Pressler created hybrid physical forms of hawks and doves to comment on the above contradictory tradition.
The exhibition is curated by Buzz Spector, a fellow Jewish artist, writer, and curator. Spector is also Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at . He selected artists Sandy Kaplan, Lauren Pressler, Frank Roth, and Barbara Umbogy because of their acutely observed attitudes about life, identity, and community; and how these attitudes come through in their work.
Spector believes that there is something uniquely Jewish about their outlook. “I made a consciously ironic choice to name the show TRADITION!,” he says, “because much of the work in show is not what people would think of as traditional Jewish art.”
All of the artists display a wide range of media and styles. Sandy Kaplan works in terra cotta and achieves a balance between classic styles and contemporary vibrant glazes.
“My sculptures capture beautiful feelings of happiness, passion, joy and love along with movement, song and dance,” she explains.
Though Frank Roth’s photographs capture everyday events, they also encourage viewers to ask if there’s more to see and to consider any unanswered questions. The overhead view of tourists in his piece It Is Frightening could have been taken in any museum lobby, but in fact shows the Holocaust Museum lobby in Washington, D.C. “I work with no preconceived idea of subject matter, but react to subjects as I see them,” he says.
“Growing up in New York, the pleasures of art came early,” remembers Barbara Umbogy. The subjects of her paintings include Jewish themes, still lifes, and portraits. Umbogy’s artistic journey began with her extraordinary education at a number of prestigious institutions, such as the Pratt Institute, Art Students League, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.
TRADITION! (as uttered by Zero Mostel in “Fiddler on the Roof”) opens at RAC on Friday, July 13 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. The gallery talk takes place on Thursday, July 19 and features the curator and artists. Both events are free and open to the public. The exhibition continues through August 18.