Jewish Museum Makes Art, Culture Accessible to All

Jewish Museum Makes Art, Culture Accessible to All

The Jewish Museum on Museum Mile is not only the first Jewish museum in the United States, it is the oldest Jewish museum in the world still functioning as a museum and, outside of Israeli museums, houses the largest collection of Jewish art and cultural artifacts. I recently had the privilege of visiting the Jewish Museum and was in awe of the exhibits and history they highlighted.

Before even getting to the first exhibit, though, I marveled in the lobby at Beatriz Milhazes’ hanging works, titled “Gamboa II” (2016), which are part of the "Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings" Lobby Installation Series. These gorgeous pieces made from mixed media are the epitome of joyfulness with their bright gold, pink and white baubles and flowers hanging overhead. I stood underneath one of them, craned my neck and looked up toward the ceiling. I felt like I was inside of a kaleidoscope. These Brazilian-inspired sculptures are on display through Sept. 18.

View from below one of the "Gamboa II" installations. (©Katie Labovitz)

Also exhibited through Sept. 18 are works by Roberto Burle Marx, a Brazilian Modernist whose work includes everything from painting, landscape designs, jewelry, sculptures and more. He is one of the most famous landscape architects from the past century and completed both public and private commissions.

Though there are so many beautiful pieces among Burle Marx’s work, I spent extra time ogling "Water Carriers" (oil on canvas, 1949), the huge "Tapestry for Santo André Civic Center" (wool, 1969) that went the length of the longest wall in the room and the carved and painted wood religious sculptures from Burle Marx’s home that were created by Brazilian sculptor Maurino Araújo in the 1970s.

"Swatches"—I found this to be a really calming wall of color samples. (©Katie Labovitz)

There is a stunning exhibit titled "Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History" on display until August 7. Though I dress like I’m clueless about clothes, I’m actually fairly knowledgable about designers and have been aware of Mizrahi’s contribution to the fashion industry these past few decades. The first thing you see is this giant wall of swatches that are arranged by color (which I loved), followed by rooms of couture, including some of Mizrahi’s most iconic designs, costumes he crafted for various performing arts entities and a gallery filled with colorful sketches.

Isaac Mizrahi couture. In my notes I wrote "I love this entire exhibit." (©Katie Labovitz)

Another temporary exhibit, on display through August 14, is "Masterpieces & Curiosities: The Fictional Portrait," that regards two paintings that are steeped in drama due to the dispute about whether the person who allegedly painted them actually painted them or not. On exhibit through that same day is the current installment of ongoing "Television Project" series called "Some of My Best Friends." This montage of clips from television shows depicts prejudices against Jewish people over the past 60 years. Of the eight examples, I have seen three of the scenes in context on their respective programs ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Mad Men" and "All in the Family") and though these are all fictional shows, it is still jarring to watch characters being so openly discriminatory.

There are also permanent items on display at the Jewish Museum. Religious texts and torah scrolls from the 1700s and 1800s, tableware from 1st Century CE, harvest tools from 1200-586 BCE—all these artifacts and more surrounding Jewish art and culture for hundreds and thousands of years is right there, waiting to be shared with people who want to know more about the past.

Ibram Lassaw

What I love about this museum is that it is for everyone—you don’t have to be Jewish to gain a better understanding of this faith and its people. These exhibits showcase significant aspects of our world's history and it is never a bad thing actively learning more about a culture that you might not be familiar with.

For more information about the Jewish Museum, click here.


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