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The Schmooze

Forward Fives: 2011 in Exhibitions

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important exhibits of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“The Sota Project”

In “The Sota Project,” which appeared this year at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn before traveling to Rothschild 69 in Tel Aviv, artist Ofri Cnaani used a 22-minute video installation to examine the depiction of adulteresses in biblical and rabbinic literature. Though Cnaani’s work used hi-tech means, it also drew on traditions of fresco and tableau vivant to tell the story of a woman who is accused of adultery by her husband and is subsequently protected by her sister. As Forward reviewer Cheryl Kaplan writes, “Cnaani’s installation, at times overly complex, ultimately delivers an exquisite corpse that is visually and conceptually rare.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘The Sota Project’ here.


“Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore”

Coming off of last year’s exhibit, “Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism,” The Jewish Museum went further into the history of women and art with “The Cone Sisters of Baltimore.” In this case the iconoclastic sisters weren’t the creators of art but its collectors, and they bought the work of such painters as Picasso and Matisse. In displaying their unique and invaluable collection, writes Elissa Strauss, the museum also “[tells] the story of how they amassed these works and the friendships they made along the way.”

Read the Forward’s coverage of ‘The Cone Sisters’ here and here.


“… and Europe Will Be Stunned”

Israeli artist Yael Bartana is one of the country’s most prominent figures on the international art scene, but when her work appeared this year at the Venice Biennale, it was on behalf of Poland, an odd occurrence at an art fair arranged around national representation. Then again, it was also perfectly appropriate, since Bartana’s work, with its theoretical “Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland” provocatively images a return of Poland’s Jewish population. As Forward reviewer Carol Zemel writes, “both her iconoclastic presence and her work query national ideals through polemic, irony and spectacular visual effects.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘….and Europe Will Be Stunned’ here.


“From Dada to Surrealism: Jewish Avant-garde Artists From Romania, 1910–1938.”

Dada was one of the most radical modern art movements, but what many people may not know is that it was started largely by Romanian Jews who came together in Zurich. This year Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum celebrated the contributions of artists such as Marcel and Georges Janco and Tristan Tzara, as well as the effect their work has had on more recent figures like David Bowie and Lady Gaga.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘From Dada to Surrealism’ here.


“Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus”

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s much-lauded exhibit of Rembrandt’s paintings of Christ was notable for the way it highlighted the master’s unique method: using Jewish acquaintances as models for his Saviour. As Forward reviewer Menachem Wecker notes, “Where Jesus had formerly been typically presented in a stylized manner, with a golden mane and European features, Rembrandt chose to present a decidedly Semitic Jesus.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus’ here.

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