Nov. 29, 2017
Ben Schachter, professor of visual arts at Saint Vincent College, is the author of a new book about contemporary Jewish art, Image, Action and Idea in Contemporary Jewish Art (Dimyonot) published by Penn State University Press.
Schachter explains: “Contemporary Jewish art is a growing field that includes traditional as well as new creative practices, yet criticism of it is almost exclusively reliant on the Second Commandment’s prohibition of graven images.” More importantly Jewish art criticism today generally “disregards the corpus of Jewish thought and a century of criticism and interpretation, I advocate instead a new approach focused on action and process.”
“Departing from the traditional interpretation of the Second Commandment, I address abstraction, conceptual art, performance art and other styles that do not rely on imagery for meaning. I examine Jewish art through the concept of melachot – work-like ‘creative activities’ as defined by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides. Showing the similarity between art and melachot in the active processes of contemporary Jewish artists such as Ruth Weisberg, Allan Wexler, Archie Rand and Nechama Golan, I explore the relationship between these artists’ methods and Judaism’s demanding attention to procedure.”
With this book, Schachter hopes people will look at contemporary Jewish art in a new way and see how artists integrate Jewish ideas with contemporary artistic methods.
Schachter, a graduate of the Pratt Institute where he earned a master of science degree and a master of fine arts degree, has been a member of the Saint Vincent College faculty since 2003.
Photo: Ben Schachter
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