Andy Warhol and Israeli Artists Present: Jewish Icons

I’m Exhibiting three works in This Exhibition In Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People:

1. Young Golda Meir Arriving at the Tel Aviv beach By the United States’s Ship Pocahontas, Digital Painting, 100X50 cm.
2. Hannah Senes In Sdot Yam (Sdot Yam=Sea fields), Digital Painting, 70X56 cm.
3. Mabat (mabat=gaze, name of the National TV News Program), Digital Painting, 70X56 cm.

Andy Warhol and Israeli Artists Present: Jewish Icons

Ten portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, the 1980 screenprint series by the legendary American pop artist Andy Warhol, was recently donated to Beit Hatfutsot from the estate of Allan S. Bird, USA. The portraits in the series include philosopher and educator Martin Buber; physicist and father of the theory of relativity Albert Einstein; father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud; composer George Gershwin; stage actress Sarah Bernhardt; the Marx Brothers – Chico, Groucho, and Harpo – in a joint portrait; writer Franz Kafka; writer Gertrude Stein; Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir; and Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish US Supreme Court justice.

From the 1960’s onward, Andy Warhol (1928–1987) – painter, filmmaker and celebrity – created a series of portraits of cultural mostly American, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor. The artistic process on this series, which he called “Jewish Geniuses,” was similar to that of many of the other portraits. He took famous photographs of the figures, cropped them roughly, and then printed them in black and white on paper or on canvas. After that he produced a screenprint, with the outlines in a free, sketched style and the collage-like geometric surfaces in acrylic paints. The screenprint portraits do not focus on deciphering the character, but on investigating its essence and status as a popular media icon. The prints also provide a basis for an interaction between painting, photography, and print. The series is another expression of Warhol’s efforts to blur the boundaries between high art and popular art and to create a subversive discussion about cultural heroes as objects of consumption and celebrity. The series inspired controversy and criticism when it was first exhibited in 1980, at the Lowe Art Museum in Miami and then at the Jewish Museum in New York. Since then it has toured the US and the world.

The present exhibition at Beit Hatfutsot gives us an opportunity to examine the series with the perspective of time and place. It also invites us to look at the works of Israeli artists who deal with twentieth-century cultural icons, both Israeli and Jewish. The works, by Eliahou Eric Bokobza, David Tartakover, Shy Abady, Hanoch Piven, Hadas Reshef, Ido Shemi, and Igael Tumarkin, are in a variety of different media, including painting, photography, sketch, collage, graphic design and digital media. Many of the works engage in a direct or indirect dialogue with pop art and with Warhol’s portraiture genre. All of the works examine the conceptual and visual significance of the notion of a “cultural hero,” whether Jewish or Israeli. The problematic nature in the very choice and representation of a Jewish cultural icon, as it emerges from Warhol’s “Jewish personalities” series, accompanies the works of the contemporary Israeli artists, and expands into the question of the difference between the Jewish cultural icon and the Israeli one and its place in all of our daily lives.

Geula Goldberg and Irena Gordon, curators

One Response to “Andy Warhol and Israeli Artists Present: Jewish Icons”

  1. Indian Music Says:

    Accompanies the works of the contemporary Israeli artists, and expands into the question of the difference between the Jewish cultural icon and the Israeli one and its place in all of our daily lives.

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