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The Jewish Museum Continues New Exhibition Series with COLLECTION TABLEAUX, 11/23

Related: The Jewish Museum, Collection Tableaux

Beginning November 23, 2012, The Jewish Museum will present Collection Tableaux, a new exhibition presenting four works from the Museum's collection that inspire meditation on the role of tables as gathering places for ritual, ideas, and memories.

The exhibition includes a newly commissioNed Glass piece by Beth Lipman, a large paper collage by Izhar Patkin, a suspended linen tablecloth by the collective Studio Armadillo, and an early twentieth-century painting by Isidor Kaufmann. In each work, the laden table embodies family traditions and Jewish history in ways both ethereal and poetic. Collection Tableaux remains on view through February 3, 2013.

Though three works are contemporary and one is almost a century older, all find ways to explore the household table as a place where festivity, sanctity, and history converge. The table, arranged with objects both mundane and precious, is a place for the enactment and representation of dramatic scenes or quiet moments. Just as the dining table is transformed into a ritual space by the ceremony of the Sabbath, so the delicate materials used in the contemporary works - glass, paper, and linen - are transformed into something ethereal and poetic.

Collection Tableaux is the latest in a new series in the second floor Offit Gallery presenting works by artists in all media, as well as installations of art and artifacts from the Museum's collection. The series serves as a laboratory - a flexible and dynamic exhibition space that supports a broad range of artistic and cultural projects. The Jewish Museum's curators are planning three shows per year that will push an artist's work in new directions or advance new ideas about art and culture.

Isidor Kaufmann's Friday Evening (c. 1920) is an unfinished painting in a realist style depicting a woman in traditional Jewish dress of the eastern Habsburg Empire, sitting at a table arrayed for the Sabbath. The scene is not an actual home, however, but the painted record of a reconstruction created by Kaufmann for the old Jewish Museum in Vienna in 1899. Kaufmann's impulse was both romantic and ethnographic, seeking to preserve the folkways of a vanishing provincial Jewish culture.

To create Laid Table with Etrog Container and Pastry Molds (2012), a commission for The Jewish Museum, Beth Lipman looked at holiday and food-related objects in the Museum's Judaica collection. The glass elements evoke balance and clarity, fragility and strength, and suggest a dramatic conversation among unseen celebrants.

Salonière (1998) is a work in Izhar Patkin's Judenporzellan series, which tells a story about the family of the Enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Under Frederick II of Prussia, Jews were required to purchase poor-quality china settings and figurines produced by a state-owned factory. This peculiar law served as a form of coercive taxation on Jews. Patkin's collage presents an ornate table with books by the eighteenth-century author and salon hostess Dorothea Mendelssohn Schlegel and a porcelain monkey statuette-perhaps a reference to anti-Semitism-among other symbolic objects.

In Linen (2002), by Studio Armadillo - the Israeli artist team of Hadas Kruk, Anat Stein and Sharon Samish-Dagan - a ghostly Sabbath tablecloth floats in mid-air. Dishes, loaves of challah, a wine bottle, a kiddush cup, and candlesticks-all formed from starched linen-are sewn to it. The Friday evening ceremony is evoked as a pause for reflection and rest, separating the practical concerns of daily life from the spiritual moment. The artists theatrically float the question of whether a table set for a ritual can embody the sense of sanctity of the Sabbath itself.

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