Visual Arts
Tue, 02/15/2011
Staff Writer
Maira Kalman’s stylish illustrations are the subject of a Jewish Museum show opening next month.
Maira Kalman’s stylish illustrations are the subject of a Jewish Museum show opening next month.

The illustrations of Maira Kalman have become synonymous with a certain type of knowing New Yorker — particularly the kind that reads The New Yorker, where she’s been a contributor for decades. But people often don’t realize Kalman isn’t from here. She’s from Tel Aviv, where she was born in 1949. Even though she’s made Manhattan her most enduring muse, she travels back to Israel often and frequently makes it the subject of her whimsical, subtly erudite illustrations. Several of those Israel illustrations will be on display at The Jewish Museum’s big spring exhibition, “Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations,” along with more than 100 others that the artist has made over her long career.

About those others: if you thought her bright colored, irreverent imagery were drawn solely from her own biography — whether the Jewish, or New Yorker part — think again. Her latest adult book, “And the Pursuit of Happiness,” tells the story of America’s establishment through her comic and tenderly humane portraits of its founding fathers, with commentary. The project began as an assignment for The New York Times website shortly after Obama’s election. Kalman published short passages of her own illustrations and commentary based on her travels to various totems of American history — the White House, Monticello, Gettysburg, and the like. Some of the most memorable images are of Thomas Jefferson’s drawing room at Monticello, and an almost androgynous portrait of Benjamin Franklin, in a plain red tunic and beaver hat—a love letter to both the richness of America’s intellectual life and the humbling story of its origins.

“Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations” opens March 11 and runs through July 31 at The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave. (212) 423-3200.

 

Israeli Art In The Spotlight:

Talks and viewings at The Armory Show.

This year’s Armory Show, New York’s biggest showcase for local, national and international galleries, features many of Israel’s most celebrated young artists, from Sigalit Landau to Ofri Cnaani. To keep us up to date on the plethora of young Israeli talent, the Artis organization, a nonprofit that helps promote Israeli artists in New York, has organized a series of events throughout The Armory Show week, which takes place this year from March 3 to 6 at Piers 92 and 94.

One Artis-sponsored event not to miss is a conversation with Sigalit Landau about her upcoming piece in the Venice Biennale 2011, where she will represent Israel. She’ll talk about her site-specific installation, titled “One Man’s Floor is Another Man’s Feelings,” with the Israel booth’s co-curator Jean de Loisy. There isn’t much information on the piece yet — another reason to see her talk — but based on past works like “Barbed Hula,” in which Landau filmed a naked woman using a hula hoop made of barbed wire, on an Israeli beach, it’s fair to guess that it won’t be an entirely prim affair.

On March 4, Artis offers an overview of Israeli art in this year’s Armory Show, with a walking tour led by the Israeli curator Ayelet Danielle Aldouby. Ofri Cnaani, who recently opened an exhibition inspired by the Talmud at the Kunsthalle Galapagos gallery in Brooklyn, will lead a private tour March 5.

Visit www.artisisrael.org or call (718) 801-8872 for details. The Sigalit Landau conversation is on Thursday, March 3, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Crosby Hotel, 79 Crosby St. The tour of Israeli art at The Armory Show with Ayelet Danielle Aldouby is on Friday, March 4, 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Armory Show, at Piers 92 and 94. Private artist-led tour of Cnaani’s show at Kunsthalle Galapagos, on 16 Main St. in Brooklyn, is on Saturday, March 5, from 12-2 p.m.

The Art Of The Conflict: Yael Bartana in ‘Museum as Hub: The Accords.’

The New Museum confronts Middle East politics head-on in its spring exhibition “Museum as Hub: The Accords,” which features the work of the Egyptian artist, Wael Shawky, who shows a film about Anwar al-Sadat’s assassination after he signed the peace treaty with Israel, and a work by the prominent Israeli artist Yael Bartana about a Jewish renaissance in present-day Poland. The exhibit isn’t about the Middle East exclusively, and includes the work of two other artists who deal with the show’s underlying theme of “accords.” The curators define “accord” as a general proposition, and use that as a starting point, having each artist make up a proposition and then express it through art. When the individual works are displayed together, viewers will be prompted to speculate about the parallels, overlaps and tensions that are inherent in a group exhibition. To boot, The New Museum is collaborating with six other museums around the world — including ones in Cairo, Mexico City and Seoul — and will occasionally stream in visual footage of the foreign exhibitions into New York’s.

“Museum as Hub” was planned well before the revolution in Egypt, but it will certainly take on a new relevance now. Shawky’s video installation, “Telematch Sadat” (2007), uses children to re-enact the assassination and burial of Sadat after he signed the unpopular Camp David Accords with Israel, a tenuous deal now in question, but one that has lasted for 30 years so far. Bartana’s work also uses film, as well as posters, a coloring book and other ephemera, all of which are inspired by the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland. The work revisits her earlier Polish-Jewish work “Mary Koszmary (Nightmares),” which Bartana exhibited at The Jewish Museum in 2009. In that work she used the style of World War II propaganda films to document current forms of anti-Semitism in Poland, as well as the small Jewish community’s passionate Zionism and its longing for a lost, once vibrant Jewish intelligentsia.

“Museum as Hub: The Accords” runs through May 1 at New Museum of Contemporary Art, 235 Bowery Ave. (212) 219-1222.