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Contemporary ArtJewish Culture & Ideas

In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—David Wilson and Francesco Spagnolo

Jul 30, 2015–Jan 3, 2016

Based on the Talmudic study principle of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—In That Case at The CJM encourages learning through fellowship for Bay Area artists, established professionals, museum staff, and the entire CJM community. Capitalizing on the unique Jewish perspective inherent to The Museum, this program takes the practice of havruta and repurposes it for the contemporary art community. Each local artist invited to participate in In That Case is given the opportunity to work with an established writer, scientist, thinker, or academic in a field of their choosing. The resulting collaborations are presented in the Sala Webb Education Center.


Inspired by the ambiguity of the Hebrew word found in Psalm 130, mima‘amaqim, David Wilson and Francesco Spagnolo collaborated on a deep study of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley. Mima‘amaqim, translated alternatively as “from [or out of] the depths” or de profundis, is a concept that evokes deep valleys, dark places, and mysteries.

For several months, David worked in the deep storage of the Magnes, finding, researching, looking at, and drawing objects from the four corners of the world. Each drawing session culminated in a conversation with Francesco, who expanded on and played with the origins and meanings of the objects he portrayed.

This installation is the result of their collaboration. Artifacts, drawings, and annotations open a window into the process of bringing out the life of an object, unleashing its performative powers. The conversation is by all means not over.

image gallery
ABOUT david wilson

Oakland based artist David Wilson engages with experience of place through a meditative drawing practice and through the orchestration of site-specific gatherings. The events that he organizes as “Ribbons” grow out of long periods of space discovery and plein air study, and draw together a wide net of artists, performers, filmmakers, chefs, and artisans, into situation-based collaborative relationships. He was awarded SFMOMA's 2012 SECA Award, was included in the 2010 CA Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, and had a 2010 MATRIX exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

ABOUT francesco spagnolo

Francesco Spagnolo (PhD Hebrew University 2007) is the Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life and a lecturer in the Department of Music at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a host for the cultural programs of RAI Radiotre (Italian National Radio) in Rome, Italy. His publications include the Italian edition of Imre Toth's Palimpsest (2003), the audio-anthology Italian Jewish Musical Traditions (Hebrew University, 2006), three books (including, most recently, The Jewish World, 2014), and articles on philosophy, music, film and literature in academic journals and encyclopedias.

the magnes collection

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life was established in 2010 after the transfer of the Judah L. Magnes Museum to the University of California, Berkeley.

artist talk

Artist David Wilson and Francesco Spagnolo, Curator of The Magnes, discuss their In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art exhibition. The duo collaborate with the audience on a large, participatory drawing. The lively event features the music of Fantasy Bracelet. 

what is havruta?

Nathaniel Deutsch, professor of literature and history and co-director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UC Santa Cruz, introduces the practice of havruta.


In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation.

Image Credit

Header image: David Wilson, 79.67.1a, 2015 Charcoal on paper, 18 x 12 in. Courtesy the Artist.