|To Know There Is a God|
The Contemporary Jewish Museum is exhibiting all of Brooklyn born Archie Rand's paintings on the 613 Jewish Mitzvahs - from the first (“To know there is a God”) to the last (“Not to retain her for servitude after having relations with her”) — into paintings.
Possibly his most ambitious project, Rand spent five years painting 613 20-by-16-inch canvas panels, converting the literary text of the mizvahs into visuals. The paintings cover all four walls of the downstairs gallery at the museum, making the room vibrate with intense color and images drawn from inflences as diverse as Mad magazine, EC comic books, Jungian psychology, jazz, all brought to life in a Fauvist color palate. Those familiar with Dane Rudhyar will recognize the kind of occult, if not religious, symbolism which Rudhyar converted into the Sabian Symbols, a meditation on each sign of the zodiac. But the mitzvah (commandments) are far older and provide the backbone of Jewish ritual which permeates each corner of Jewish llife, especially for the Orthodoz.
But Rand is engaging with the art of the Torah, something few Jewish artists have done, partially because of the 2nd commandment, "thou shalt not create graven images." But the 2nd commandment isn't the whole story. Something about the diasporic experience, Rand believes, led to an atrophy of the Jewish visual imagination over time. “There was a fear of enflaming or irritating the local people by using art to create a distinctively Jewish space — by claiming territory,” he tells me. “And murals can’t be moved if you need to get out of town.” (Interview, LA Review of Books)
In an interview with the Washington Post, Rand explained, "these paintings are made for a hypothetical culture of socially engaged, non-exclusionary believers. Normal people with a personal or academic interest in Judaism." https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/ny-artist-archie-rand-takes-on-torahs-613-commandments/2015/10/29/4ee0045c-7e6f-11e5-bfb6-65300a5ff562_story.html?utm_term=.16a74403b543
"#ArchieRand argues that his inheritance from Jewish traditions is primarily literary rather than visual. To make his paintings, starting with the texts of the 613 laws, he created a set of images that are centered on the human body as engaged in social activity, the full gamut of human interactions—full of folly, appetite, piety, transgression, violence, kindness, and curiosity."
—CJM Chief Curator Renny Pritikin
Visit "The 613 by Archie Rand" to explore Rand's major painting project.
Through October 22, 2017
LA Review of Books here.