What Is "Jewish" Art? Looking Back at the Hanukkah Project Three Years Later

By Jacobson, Heidi Zuckerman | Michigan Quarterly Review, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

What Is "Jewish" Art? Looking Back at the Hanukkah Project Three Years Later


Jacobson, Heidi Zuckerman, Michigan Quarterly Review


In retrospect, 1993 was probably the height of multiculturalism in the visual art world. The pinnacle was the widely criticized 1993 Whitney Biennial curated by Elizabeth Sussman and a team that included Thelma Golden, curator of the historically important Black Male exhibition, among others. Whitney Biennials are notorious for attracting negative press, but the 1993 installment was particularly vilified. Criticism included Michael Kimmelman writing in The New York Times, "I hate the show."1 1993 was also the year in which I joined the curatorial staff of The Jewish Museum in New York. It was also during this era that The Jewish Museum organized an exhibition titled Bridges and Boundaries that explored the complex historical relationship between Blacks and Jews.

My prior knowledge of The Jewish Museum had centered on the very impressive avant-garde exhibitions presented there from the early 1960s to the early 1970s. During that period, The Jewish Museum was at the forefront of the presentation of contemporary art, with the first museum exhibition of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, the first major presentation in the U.S. of Yves Klein, and Primary Structures, a show which helped to define Minimalism. Hence, there was an impressive precedent for presenting new art at The Jewish Museum.

In the mid-1980s, however, The Jewish Museum redefined itself as an institution that promotes and preserves Jewish history and culture. It was decided that the mission of the museum was to present Jewish culture-both art and history-and, as such, that the artists or projects presented must engage Jewish tradition. The Jewish Museum is a culturally specific institution in which the balance and integration of artistic and cultural history are often debated; at the same time the exhibitions, like those at many cultural institutions, are subject to the pressures of attracting large and diverse audiences. At exhibition committee meetings, the curatorial staff would discuss whether a work, artist, or exhibition was "Jewish" enough. The debate fluctuated to include religion, ethnicity, subject matter, form, and content. We often had difficulty defining what the term "Jewish" meant and identifying what works would be appropriate. I learned that historical subjects and artists were less likely to create internal strife than contemporary ones. The dilemma seemed to be one of conceptual vs. overt identity, whether it was more important that the artist was "Jewish" or that the work said something about being Jewish.

Ultimately, I developed and implemented a contemporary project series at The Jewish Museum as an attempt to re-engage the institution's tradition of presenting avant-garde exhibitions. The series included commissions of projects by esteemed contemporary artists. As a means of changing the museum from a passive space for presentation into an active, essential part of the installation, I proposed placing these works in non-traditional spaces around the museum such as the roof, the building's facade, and windows. The work was simultaneously presented in actual and virtual space, in the museum and on our newly launched website. My methods for determining which artists would be appropriate for showing at The Jewish Museum varied greatly. For example, I invited conceptual artist Kristin Oppenheim to create a sound piece for the stairwell of the museum because, to me, the incantations of her voice in her works recalled Jewish cantorial music and sacred songs. I chose the collaborative Israeli artist team of AYA & GAL MIDDLE EAST, because their work addressed the Israeli/Palestine quandary over land, an issue that I thought was relevant to American Jews-many of whom, especially in New York, hold strong Zionist beliefs. Jewishness as my operative category was based on the artist's engagement with a range of religious, cultural, and political questions.

The history of the museum reflects what could be seen as a contemporary identity crisis, similar perhaps to the one that faces many secular Jews across America. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Is "Jewish" Art? Looking Back at the Hanukkah Project Three Years Later
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.