This year’s MFA exhibition at The New York Studio School, which opened on Wednesday night, includes two Israeli painters working with specifically Jewish or Israeli themes. Leah Raab paints large-scale images of Jerusalem that are tender and intimate, but sometimes communicate a sense of foreboding. Shany Saar paints narrative works, often of biblical themes. Both create strong images through an inventive sense of form and color, vigorous brushwork and an achieved sense of pictorial space.
Leah Raab exhibits a series of paintings done in Jerusalem’s playgrounds. The viewer’s eye flows through these spaces, which integrate intimate spaces and groupings of children with more spare, empty passages, harboring a sense of uncertainty or fear. The images feel personal and contemporary. There are children playing on (and in) sculptural slides that look like bomb shelters and odd metal see-saws that begin to seem like gas masks. “Playground in Beit Shemesh” looks both familiar and unsettling because of space, color and light.
Raab came to take her MFA at The Studio School after teaching for over thirty years. She was Director of the Art Program at Emunah V’Omanut College in Jerusalem from 2006- 2011.
Shany Saar paints a range of narrative subjects including fresh takes on Biblical themes. I was most interested in her series of paintings of Balaam and his recalcitrant donkey. In the largest version here, amid a sweeping composition, the donkey’s refusal to move further after he has seen the angel is pictorially arresting. In some of the smaller versions, the donkey, along with the other forms, is somewhat static. One realizes that there is a challenge to painting stopped movement. A painting of Jonah at sea is largely convincing as painting and as narrative.
The work of these two Israelis, along with twelve other graduating artists, can be seen at the New York Studio School, 8 West 8th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) through May 22nd. The work is on exhibit throughout the School and it is all serious art; well worth taking in. The School is open seven days a week. (212)673-6466
Jill Nathanson is an abstract painter who has collaborated with Arnold Eisen on “Seeing Sinai,” a series of paintings and commentary. She teaches in the pre-college program at The New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.