The Art Of Observance
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The Art Of Observance

“Coming to a stop is not easy in this frenetic world. But it is essential for being watchful –and for making art,” explains Rochelle Rubinstein, guest curator of Yeshiva University Museum’s sixth annual group exhibition, “Stop. Watch.”

This show is not just a rare experience for undergraduate students to display their work in a museum in New York City, but also an invaluable opportunity to understand the curatorial process of designing a show. From thematic choices like conceptualizing the exhibition’s theme to practical decisions like selecting the paint swatch for the walls, undergraduate students work closely with museum staff to create an exhibition of their own.

Rubinstein joined the team to select the artworks and tighten the thread between the student body and the museum. A Toronto-based artist whose acclaimed solo exhibition “Silk Stones” ran at Yeshiva University Museum in 2012, Rubinstein was the first graduate of Stern’s Studio Art Program. Her insight and explanation of a stopwatch representing a symbol for the process of creating art -– coming to a halt and then being observant -– connects the wide range of art in the show.

A bit disjointed in varying materials — paintings, sculpture, video art, installations, photography and even mobiles — the show provides a survey of the next generation of young Jewish artists. As a Stern alumna who worked on two such annual exhibitions at the Museum, I found it particularly interesting to look back, and look through, the artistic expression of the graduating class of 2015. From the somewhat expected Humans of New York-like street photography to multiple colorful linoleum block prints, I was reminded that the exhibit itself functions to display a culmination of assignments correlated to coursework. And yet, a few points in the exhibit emphasize that these students deserve museum representation outside the classroom.

"I was struck by the students' shared awareness of time passing, of essential stages and roles, of contradictory obligations," Rubinstein notes. This is especially apparent in the memorial created for Julia Packer, a beloved student who tragically passed away this year. Her still-life paintings are hung on their own wall (prime viewing for any artist in a group show) and emotionally anchored by a notebook that encourages viewers to remember Julia and write down their own thoughts while viewing her art.

Also featured is the work of work of Micahl Aiash, Yael Bar, Nissana Boxtein, Irit Greenboim, Sarah King, Bayla Neren, Yardena Presser, Marni Rosen, Adina Simon, ST Schwartz and Leora Veit.

While it is surprising to see numerous two-dimensional works of art in a space that is usually filled with installation art and sculpture, a small book catches the undivided attention of multiple visitors. Boxstein’s “365 Day Book” functions like an unconventional calendar -– it is an encyclopedia chronicling each day according to the death (and accompanying iconic image) of a celebrity or famous historical figure. The accidental juxtapositions are the most intriguing: think about flipping through a hand-sized book to find Rembrandt van Rijn (d. October 4, 1669) preceding Steve Jobs (d. October 5, 2011); or Johnny Cash (d. September 12, 2003) next to Yisrael Meir Kagan (d. September 15, 1933) –- the pages (September 13-14) in between are curiously torn out to highlight this pairing of two visionaries from different centuries and different cultures. Regardless, that such comparisons are presented in Boxstein’s work provides a great example of the museum’s mission to present the exciting core of contemporary Jewish art that can be achieved through a combination of Jewish history and emerging talent.

Stop. Watch. Stern Senior Art Show” is on view from May 10th to August 2nd at the Yeshiva University Museum,15 West 16th Street, New York.

Aimee Rubensteen is a writer and curator living in New York City. She works at Sotheby's administering the Egyptian, Classical and Western Asiatic Antiquities Department.

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