Exhibition Focuses on Jewish Artists and the Book

Chagall imageThe exhibition “Jewish Artists and the Book” will be on view in the 4th Floor Exhibition Gallery of UWM’s Golda Meir Library through December 28, 2012.

Traditionally, Jews – and by extension other peoples of the Abrahamic tradition – have been referred to as “People of the Book.” This is a distinctive appellation, as few, if any other groups of people have been culturally defined by their dominant communication medium. The book is central to Jewish tradition, not only because of reverence for scriptural authority, but also because the object of the book plays such an important role in the liturgical, educational, social, and family structures of Jewish life and culture.

Artists have been integral to the physical presence of the Jewish book since at least the tenth century CE (the time of the earliest, extant Hebrew books besides the Dead Sea Scrolls).Their approach to 2D composition in page-space is deeply informed by a distinctly Jewish perspective on the book and a rich tradition of art as a component of books that spans hundreds of generations. This exhibition examines that tradition from the High Middle Ages to the present.

Drawn almost entirely from the resources of Special Collections at the UWM Libraries, works on display include state-of-the-art facsimiles of illuminated Bibles, haggadot, psalters, and other works from the 13th-18th centuries; original prints, livres d’artistes, and bookwork by giants of 20th-century art, such as Marc Chagall, Ben Shahn, Arthur Szyk, Leonard Baskin, and R. B. Kitaj; the Jewish pioneers and contemporary stars of American comic-book art, including  Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster (Superman), Will Eisner (The Spirit), Harvey Pekar (American Splendor), Art Spiegelman (Maus), and Stan Lee (Marvel Comics); contemporary international artists, such as David Moss (Israel) and Mirta Kupferminc (Argentina); and contemporary artists books, including works by local and regional artists, such as Barbara Kohl-Spiro, Caryl Seidenberg, Judith Harway, and Sylvie Armstrong.

Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, or by appointment by contacting Special Collections at 414.229.4345 or libspecial@uwm.edu.

Curated and produced by Special Collections, UW-Milwaukee Libraries, this exhibition forms part of the Peck School of the Arts’ Year of the Arts, and is supported by the UWM Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies, Hillel Milwaukee, and Jewish Museum Milwaukee.

Image: Original color etching by Marc Chagall, from the first set of colored etchings done by the artist not using pochoir, from De Mauvais Sujets by Jean Paulhan (Paris: Les Bibliophiles de l'Union française, 1958).  Limited edition of 112 copies signed by the author and artist.