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Contemporary Art

Izidora Leber LETHE: Peristyle

Jul 25, 2019–Jan 19, 2020

Izidora Leber LETHE: Peristyle is the first solo museum exhibition of Croatian-Swiss, Oakland-based artist Izidora Leber LETHE. Drawing from the visual languages of Brutalist architecture and minimalist performance scores, this site-specific installation and performance mines the layered memories of the double émigré artist. The artist’s lived experience of diaspora—a history shared by Jewish and many other populations over millennia—informs her conceptual inquiry. Excavating ideologies found in Ancient Roman architecture and the systems of meaning that define The CJM’s Daniel Libeskind-designed building, LETHE’s work imagines a reconfiguration of relationships in the face of irresolvable diasporas.  

Born in the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia) in the city of Split, the site of an Ancient Roman palace originally built for the Emperor Diocletian, LETHE revisits the palace’s column-lined central gathering square, the Peristil. For Peristyle, five angular pillar-like forms congregate within the steeply vaulted walls of the Stephen and Maribelle Leavitt Yud Gallery—Libeskind’s contemporary response to the building’s neoclassical historic façade—whose thirty-six scattered windows invoke dispersion, mirroring the mosaic narrative of the émigré. LETHE’s concrete sculptures enter this architectural dialogue, referencing Yugoslav functionalist architecture, which is associated with inter-ethnic Yugoslav socialism—an idiosyncratic system that simultaneously emphasized individualism and interdependence.

LETHE’s accompanying performance continues this conversation, interrogating the persisting power, perfection, and neutrality encoded in archetypal Greco-Roman forms with choreography that re-interprets classical sculptures through living bodies. Challenging the hegemony of universalizing Western ideals, the performers represent diverse positions that have been historically excluded from the classical canon. Like the gathering of the sculptures themselves, the performers’ interrelation offers a vision of alternative social formations. LETHE’s installation functions as a monument to diaspora, inviting us to consider the generative potential of non-Western and international affinities.


This exhibition is included in your general admission ticket. Museum admission also includes free access to all public programs and tours, unless otherwise noted. Public tours are offered daily (except Wednesdays) and are available first-come, first-serve—no reservations are necessary. Private guided tours, access tours for visitors with disabilities, and guided tours for school groups of all ages are also available.


Leadership Support for exhibitions at The Contemporary Jewish Museum is generously provided by Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt. Izidora Leber LETHE: Peristyle is curated by Assistant Curator Natasha Matteson, The Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Image Credit

Izidora Leber LETHE, Chor(eograph)us, 2019. Video performance, still. Courtesy of the artist