Archie Rand’s “Aaron’s Sons”

Archie Rand Put a New Tryst on the Bible

One of my greatest Jewish art surprises of 2016 came during a tour of two provocative Archie Rand exhibitions — “Sixty Paintings from the Bible” (1992) and “The Book of Judith” (2012) — at Cleveland State University with professor and curator Samantha Baskind. It’s not that Rand was a surprise to me — you may have heard of his series of 613 canvases, one per biblical commandment. And Baskind, who edits Pennsylvania State University Press’s “Jews and the Cultural Imagination” series, may be familiar to you, too. But here I was turning a corner in the gallery with Baskind at which point I found myself face to face with Rand’s painting of Joseph trying to flee as Potiphar’s wife dramatically tugs at his red cloak. “F—k me,” the speech bubble states. That’s not quite how the biblical text reads, but to Rand’s eye, it might as well. Where this exhibit drew upon centuries-old biblical drawings, which Rand treated with a bolder and more modern palette and drawing style, the Judith series draws upon classic pin-ups. Both decisions shed considerable light rather than detract from or disrespect the religious texts they portray.

- Menachem Wecker
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Archie Rand’s Biblical Art

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