Jewish and Multiethnic Art Comes to Crown Heights
The last time I was at Nostrand Avenue and Lincoln Place in Brooklyn was probably in the early 1970s in the backseat of my father’s car. In the days before Google Maps and Waze, my father would rely on experience and instinct in deciding the quickest route back to our home near Marine Park.
Crown Heights has changed exponentially over the last 40 years. Gone is the fear of crime and danger; Crown Heights is now host and home to some of the most artistic events in town.
I recently visited an art exhibition entitled, “BROOKLYN: JUXTAPOSITION.” It is hosted by Repair the World (a non-profit), and is a group show featuring Brooklyn based artists exploring the concept of “juxtaposition” among multiple cultures. Curated by Aimee Rubensteen, the exhibition ranges from conceptual artwork harnessing contrasting materials, such as fire and water, to literal depictions of diversity within the Jewish, West Indian, and Brooklynite communities in Crown Heights.
I was initially interested in reviewing this exhibition because I am a big fan of the artist Elke Reva Sudin. Elke’s painting, “Joseph in Exile,” is an exceptionally large and well executed piece. She chooses to portray Joseph and Osnat (Asenath — his Egyptian wife given to him by Pharoah) as Jews of color, as well as to modernize them with contemporary dress and scene. This is clearly a successful experiment that manages to blend race and color while transporting biblical figures through a time machine, forward 2,700 some-odd years. You can clearly discern Osnat holding a modern day Artscroll tehillim, while a seated Joseph holds a Kiddush cup like a king. The color integration between the walls and the figures also works well. Elke manages to capture the essence of the Brooklyn experience on a 24” x 36” wood panel.
The next piece that I stopped at was Rheanna Abbott’s “Vessel,” which is essentially a solid white button down shirt under layers of plaster. While not deliberately aesthetically pleasing as in traditional art, it is meant to have deeper multiple meanings. The white shirt is the standard uniform shirt worn by Orthodox Jewish men, as well as by businessmen, white collar employees, and other young professionals. With this plaster sculpture, Rheanna Abbott manages to make artistic the iconic uniform of the Brooklyn male. Her message is clearly that while the underneath can be vastly different, the outer shell solidifies the bond between men.
Talya Feldman’s “Untitled” manages to evoke almost immediately the impression that somehow we are seeing a drawing of a tallis (a male prayer shawl). The first of two paintings appears to evoke the tallis in a kneeling or thinking position, and the other one gives the appearance that the tallis is looking at you in pity.
Rusty Zimmerman displays three portraits of three different Crown Heights ethnicities: a Lubavitcher, a West Indie-American, and an Arab-American. These portraits are three of 200 painted by Zimmerman as part of a larger project from earlier this year. Each of these people sit in a frontal pose. Zimmerman gives each one an accurate depiction and shows credibility and integrity in his assessments of each ethnic form.
Other artists’ works on display include Fortune Chalme, Rina Dweck, Sara Erenthal, Danielle Frankel, Meirav Ong, Michael Pitter, Hannah Roodman, and Ron Taylor.
The exhibition runs from June 30 to August 14, Tuesday to Friday from 12-6pm, and by appointment. For further information contact the curator: AimeeRubensteen@gmail.com.