The Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative movement’s venerable Morningside Heights center, is going through somewhat of a culture renaissance thanks to its arts-friendly chancellor, Arnold Eisen, and JTS’ recently formed Art Advisory Board. What makes “Reading the Visual/Visualizing the Text,” the inaugural exhibition, a unique beginning is that it’s not sequestered in a gallery; it is on display within the living spaces of the seminary, offering its students, professors and guests the opportunity to view and interact with the work as they enter the building, walk the hallways and attend daily prayers.
Jill Nathanson’s abstract paintings, “Seeing Sinai: Meditations on Exodus 33-4” reflect her text study and dialogue with Chancellor Eisen about the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai. In addition to Nathanson’s paintings, excerpts of Eisen’s comments are also presented, including, “like ritual, art stirs and elicits parts of ourselves that rational thought processes cannot reach.”
Ben Rubin’s computer-generated “Between the Lines” hanging under JTS’s coffered entryway welcomes incoming visitors. This projection displays pages of the Talmud abstractly by using moving and conjoining shapes to correspond to the text and its commentaries. Rachel Kanter, a textile artist, has an installation of 10 aprons on mannequins in the Women’s League Seminary Synagogue. The aprons’ designs have been drawn from her studies of Judaism and feminism. Danielle Durchslag presents two photography-based installations. In “Relative Unknowns” Durchslag combined family photos with images she found in the JTS archives, reconstructing some of the images with hand-cut paper. Tobi Kahn, JTS’ first artist is residence, created a series of paintings in response to illuminated manuscripts he studied at the JTS Library.
“Reading the Visual/Visualizing the Text” is on view through May 29 at the Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway. For more information, go to jtsa.edu.