I will be participating in the Salon ha Cubia exhibit opening October 28, 2017, at 8 pm in Nayot in Jerusalem, as part of the city-wide Manofim project. Closing January 25, 2018. Hope to see you there. Invitation

Pleased to be participating in the exhibition HOME(less) at HUC-JIR Museum NY. Running through the end of June 2018. For details see post

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A First Bite

Golden Ochre, the name of this blog, is one color I would choose to start mixing a shade for the warm light of Jerusalem at sunset. Jerusalem of Gold, as tourist ads and pop tunes call this city, does not quite describe the peachy cast it takes as it approaches dusk. Ochre,  recalling Tuscan quarries, bounces off the pale Jerusalem stone walls that face the buildings throughout the city, if the light is just so.

"Hamsa" (stone carving, the Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem) Heddy Abramowitz

My pre-conceptions of Jerusalem included pastoral biblical landscapes and war-torn nightly news shots.  Both, at times, are accurate – this is a city surrounded by rolling hills leading to the Judean desert. Sitting in  the eye of the Middle East storm, the news brings its horrors into our living rooms.

“Ten measures of beauty came into the world; Jerusalem received nine measures, and the rest of the world one,” says the Jewish tradition in the Talmud (Kidushin 49b). It is not always an easy beauty to find. It is a beauty, to my mind, that one must work at seeing and appreciating. The beauty I seek is often one distant from pretty.

Nothing prepared me for the reality of a fairly down-at its- heels and gritty city center, a dusty and rocky Old City, thriving outdoor markets and a bohemian (at the time) art scene. Over three decades living here has changed my impressions of this city as it and the art produced here have evolved. Much like an archaeological dig, it has taken me many years to get beyond the surface and to know Jerusalem’s other layers.

I intend to review art exhibits that interest me, discuss the challenges of my own painting efforts, include questions which are common to many artists, encourage a discussion in English about art that is accessible to travelers to this region and to art lovers beyond our borders, highlight items about painting masters, and engage in a bit of shop talk as well.

That being said,  I want to talk for a bit about Paris, to where I have been fortunate to be traveling  with some regularity recently.  Why in a blog about Jerusalem, one might legitimately wonder?  Living in a city that is not one of the great art destination cities of the world presents its own challenges. There is one museum in this city with a decent collection of paintings. There is one such museum  in Tel Aviv..  o really see great painting one must travel, although today, the reproductions on the internet certainly help on some level to broaden one's horizons.

The Orsay Museum currently has a special exhibit up, "Manet:  The Man Who Invented Modernity" (till July16). The curatorial claim is that Manet was the primary artist who opened up the path to modernism.  The exhibit was recently reviewed  by Michael Kimmelman in the NYTimes. Far be it for me to question the illustrious critic's opinions, but I would like to offer my own take on this exhibit from the eyes of a painter who has far fewer opportunities than he to see great works of art. My, perhaps, less-jaded eyes found much right with the exhibit.

Edouard Manet (1832-1883)The Dead Torero Probably 1864 Oil on canvas H. 75,9 ; W. 153,3 cm Washington, National Gallery of Art Widener Collection© courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

While, by the nature of the beast, a retrospective may leave room to whittle things down,  for myself, the exhibit revealed much about Manet that was new to me:  a whole room of Christian art, a whole room of plein air works closely related to the high -keyed color palettes of his painting buddies more known in that field. A chance to see "Dejeuner sur l'Herbe" next to the stunning portrait he made of his model (see photo in NYT article). I appreciated reading about his difficulty with sales-  his figures didn't sell, but his still lifes were his bread and butter - a surprising fifth of his oeuvre. And what still lifes,  a small room contained his  painting of a sole lemon, a single asparagas stalk and a breath-taking bunch of  peonies painted with the most economic of means-  I could have done with a much bigger selection of similar work.

But it was the "Dead Torero (Matador)" that I found has most  stayed with me since leaving the exhibit. The wall text explained that this painting was a canvas cut from a much larger painting of a complex bull fight scene of multiple figures. Here, I thought, was the modernity of Manet. Though much is made of his reduction of shapes to more flat masses, and one can readily see that in his short-cuts and abbreviations that differed so much from his contemporaries, it is in this kind of cropping that I sensed a modernist's eye. He acted as a photographer, or a director might with this work - putting the spotlight on the figure that was the center of the drama and calling that the painting. It is still a dramatic composition, it is still poignant. It stopped me in my tracks.

As for the curatorial theory, I would only add that Manet may not have been the pivotal figure leading to modernism, but he was certainly one of a rarefied number who could share that credit. Monet, Cezanne and others were certainly contenders as well, each opening doors that other painters walked through. 

With your indulgence I will be writing some more on the exhibits and sites recently seen in France while they are still fresh in my mind.

“How does one eat an elephant?,”  goes  the childhood joke. “One bite at a time.” Golden Ochre, post 1, is launched.