Artwork at New York City’s Garis & Hahn Gallery Asks: ‘Chuck Schumer, Israeli Spy?’
A summer art exhibition at a Manhattan gallery has drawn the ire of several in the Jewish community for visualizations that seem to augment Jewish stereotypes of dual loyalty and financial power, and “musing about doing away with the Jewish state” of Israel.
The Garis & Hahn gallery on Bowery launched its Summer Windows exhibition on August 10 with displays by 10 different artists in a “continuous dialogue,” organized by guest curator Danika Druttman.
Among the images was one that simply read, in sparse Magnetic Poetry text, “Chuck Schumer, Israeli spy?” The timely piece appeared just a few days after Schumer announced his opposition to the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Following Schumer’s announcement, some controversially suggested that the New York Democratic senator was more concerned with Israeli security than U.S. interests, claims that were subsequently decried by Jewish groups.
Another image showed the iconic Star of David, crafted out of one-dollar bills, with the text “not on my dime” in the center; blood oozes from the bottom of the Jewish symbol.
And yet another display depicts a younger woman standing on a wooden deck in a rural setting aiming a rifle at an unseen target; the text, “Israel is over if we want,” cascades in a disjointed vertical down the image, in front of the young woman.
Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper questioned the double standard with which the artists and guest curator approached the subject of the Jewish state and American Jews.
“In a region where millions have been displaced maimed and killed—from Syria to Iraq and beyond—they post a picture of someone pointing a rifle and musing about doing away with the Jewish State? Why? Why Israel?” asked Cooper. “Has the art gallery taken on any other country— say for example Iran —whose Mullahocracy hangs gays and supports suicide bombers and terrorist activities around the world? If the answer is no, perhaps they should take a selfie and reflect on their values and the messages they choose to validate through art.”
Cooper also deplored the “slander of dual loyalties” leveled against Schumer.
“These so-called ‘art’ hit-pieces reflect the growing toxicity that is beginning to permeate in many aspects of the mainstream of our society and culture … We reiterate the Wiesenthal Center’s call upon our elected leaders and media pundits to denounce the dangerous gutter politics that inspire artists to point their (still) imaginary rifles at the heads of 8 million very real citizens of the Jewish state and to cast a seasoned Senator as a possible spy because a) he opposes the Iran Deal and b) he is a Jew,” he said.
Curator Danika Druttman meanwhile responded that the works were “produced in real time” with “no curatorial perspective.”
“In regards to the piece in question, the artist was coming from a position of anti military spending. This piece is part of a larger body of work in which a discussion is being had between many artists through imagery and text. The views of the artist in this art work are not reflective of my opinions as the curator, or of the gallery,” she said.