Jewish HistoryJewish Culture & IdeasPop CultureLiteratureContemporary Art
Jul 20, 2017–Oct 22, 2017
The 613 is a major painting project by Archie Rand presented at The CJM in its museum debut and first appearance outside New York City. In traditional Jewish texts 613 rules for ethical and religious behavior is asked of all Jews. Rand’s exhibition includes one painting for each one of the 613; they are acrylic on canvas paintings (20 x 16 in.) arranged in a huge grid comprising 1700 square feet. There will be a digital kiosk in the middle of the gallery so that visitors can access each of the 613 paintings in close up, along with the admonition translated into English. At the special invitation of CJM Executive Director Lori Starr, a new painting by Rand, on what some consider to be number 614: never forget, is included in the exhibition, displayed separately in the gallery.
Much of Rand’s work involves paintings in reaction to essential Jewish texts; these are not illustrations but are emotional and intuitive responses. Rand is deeply aligned with contemporary poetry, having collaborated with a number of major experimental poets such as John Ashbery and Robert Creeley. Rand sees the cumulative historic gift of Jewish textual scholarship as his inheritance to interpret and utilize for his own aesthetic practice. His use of the 613 is not therefore to be understood as an endorsement of its content but as a respectful reuse of found material.
Peter Steinfels in The New York Times of June 7, 2008, wrote, “The 614 individual paintings—an introductory “title painting” pictures a man in a fedora, presumably taking orders from God on a 1930s-style wall phone—are rendered in the style of comics and pulp fiction book jackets, a dash of Mad Magazine, a spoonful of Tales From the Crypt, some grotesques, some superheroes, always action, emotion, drama.” The palette runs to lurid blues, greens, yellows, purples and rose, “vulgar, discomforting colors,” Rand says, suitable for the acrylic paints but also “to steer away from an accepted aesthetic.” The wall of images is held together not only by the style and the palette but also the formal gold edging of each painting with the Hebrew number of the commandment.
Archie Rand: The 613 is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco and Joan Brookbank Projects in collaboration with the artist Archie Rand. Blue Rider Press (Penguin Random House) published a hardcover book of 640 pages, reproducing each of the 613 panels (one full-color plate per page) in 2015. The book features endorsements by Art Spiegelman, Cynthia Ozick, and Ang Lee, among many other writers, artists, and critics.
Archie Rand (born 1949) is an artist from Brooklyn, New York. Rand received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in cinegraphics from Pratt Institute, having studied previously at the Art Students League of New York. His first exhibition was in 1966, at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York. He is currently Presidential Professor of Art at Brooklyn College. Before joining Brooklyn College, Rand was the chair of the Department of Visual Arts at Columbia University. He served as the Acting Director of the Hoffberger School of Painting and as Assistant Director of the Mount Royal Graduate Programs, both at the Maryland Institute College of Art. From 1992–94 he was Co-Chair of the National Studio Arts Program of the College Art Association. He was made a Laureate of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, which awarded him the Achievement Medal for Contributions in the Visual Arts. Rand’s work as a painter and muralist is displayed around the world, including in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His graphic works and books are in over 400 public collections including the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Art Institute Of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and The New York Public Library; and are owned by many universities, among which are Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, and Johns Hopkins.