Sunday, July 05, 2015

At The Jew Mu

If you’re planning a visit to the Jewish Museum, I suggest that you go on a Saturday when there is no admission fee, because its the Sabbath and Observant Jews are not allowed to handle gelt , better known as money and you’ll save yourselves some of it.   The shows on view is the somewhat entertaining but too small “Artful Airwaves Revolution of The Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television” which focuses on how “modern art” influenced tv in the early days of its long and continuing life. The hidden message here is of course how Jews influenced television in all aspects and areas of the medium but this is pretty much kept under the covers except for a small  mention in the brochure that states  in part “During this period, the pioneers of American television –many of them young, Jewish and aesthetically adventurous turned toward modernism as a source of creative inspiration”  This fact may have been mentioned in the intro. Wall statement but  I never or very rarely read wall statements so don’t hold this against me if indeed this fact is mentioned elsewhere. The show is full of fun stuff, video excerpts from The Twilight Zone, plans, photos, models  and Tchotchkes from the brilliant CBS building including some great stuff like ashtrays with the CBS eye logo, and ads designed by Saul Bass and Ben Shahn along with other artists. The show also has a big screen video of  Barbra Streisand singing her heart out from her second special and display cases of more tchotchkes including an original Winky Dink game that made my heart skip a beat, I didn’t know Winky was Jewish he sure doesn’t look Jewish maybe he changed his name from Dinkowitz to Dink.  They also throw in to the mix some non-Jews like Andy Warhol with one of his tv guide covers and some movie clips and commercials. The other exhibit up is called “Repetition and Difference” which is a show bringing together nine contemporary artists with objects from the museum’s Judaica  collection to mix and match similarities and differences within the wide area of repetition. The problem for me was the art of the contemporary artists whose work I found dull, derivative and not very compelling especially when placed next to the great pieces from their collection. The contemporary work just doesn’t hold up against the vivid displays of Menorahs, skullcaps, female clay figures from the eighth-seventh century BCE and the superb hand painted marriage contracts from Iran. There is also a  case of shekels (so that’s what a shekel looks like). The act of repetition in art seems to me to be an easy way out for a themed show, artists have been using repetition since time began (more or less) and the dullness of this show lies with the poor choice of artists that the curators picked to be included.  


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