Jewish Culture & IdeasLiteratureContemporary Art
Oct 23, 2005–Feb 26, 2006
The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) is honored to be the only U.S. venue for Intersections, an interfaith, intercontinental, and interactive exploration of the changing issues of women and faith. Three women—reflecting three different religions, using different media, working on different continents—use text to explore the possibility of change and exchange in this exhibition.
Conceived and co-curated by the Australia-based artist Irene Barberis, this exhibition features the work of Barberis and two other artists: Parastou Forohaur, an Iranian exile living in Germany, and Jane Logemann, who lives in New York. These three artists, who come from different backgrounds and work in different artistic media, all use abstractions of text and language as a theme in their work. By creating non-linguistic images from various texts, Forohaur, Barberis, and Logemann allow audiences to "read the space" whether the alphabets they use are familiar or not. Indeed, much of the work is intended to be somewhat abstract. Each of the artists intend for the forms of these letters and scripts to become more powerful than the literal meaning of the words themselves. The three artists also share an interest in challenging the issues of patriarchal faiths through the voices of women.
Text or “the Book” plays a critical role in Judeo, Islamic, and Christian traditions. Material scripture is considered holy and there are strict rules about how holy books are to be handled and read. Traditionally, the reading, studying, and writing of sacred text have excluded women. The artists in Intersections challenge these traditions by using religious texts and language as source, content, and medium in their work.
Dialogue and collaboration are at the heart of Intersections. The artists’ individual works in this exhibition do not exist on their own. The backbone and unifying element of the exhibition is The Joint Work. Over the course of one year, a length of cloth made three trips around the world to the studio of each artist. With no rules or limits, each woman worked on the cloth in turn, negotiating individual and cultural differences and exploring the possibilities of transformation and exchange. This work represents the balance of both separateness and coming together. The Museum invites the visitor to consider the intersection between individual vision and group creation—and to take part in this dialogue.
The CJM is proud to be the only U.S. venue for this intercultural exhibition, which speaks directly to The Museum’s mission of encouraging and fostering dialogue and building bridges of understanding among different cultural traditions. Rather than offer easy solutions, Intersections models a process for negotiation, cooperation, and discourse between groups and individuals with seemingly disparate backgrounds. We encourage you to connect with the meditative quality that each of the three artists bring to their artwork. The physicality of the works allows us to walk by, around, under, and on them—to ponder that the writing on the wall or the page is not always what it seems.
Irene Barberis' art reworks Christian writings using the materials of a post-modern, post-industrial age. Plastics, silicon, and fluorescent colors form grid-like structures and patterns in her installations, which emphasize the fundamental nature of faith through disjunction. Her individual work for the exhibition includes a vibrant, oversized pink inflatable sculpture as well as works ornamented with visionary Biblical texts which are inscribed by a sewing machine or drawn in silicon. Barberis initiated the creation of Intersections and co-curated the exhibition with Helen Light of the Jewish Museum of Australia.
Iranian-born Parastou Forouhar who lives in exile in Germany, works in many media exploring the role of women in Islamic traditions, examining cultural identity and the forces that put one into boxes defined by others. She frequently uses the materials and textiles of the Iranian stereotype—chadors, turbans, beards, and veils—reflecting of the Western gaze back onto itself. One of her individual works for the exhibition, Written Carpet, features a traditional Islamic decorative motifóthe beautiful, eloquent Persian script, which eccentrically connects writing and space, as it courses over the walls, the floor, and the ceiling.
Jane Logemann uses texts taken from languages as diverse as Russian, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, and Hebrew. Her repetition of words is mesmerizing and almost Kabbalistic as it evokes the strength and mystery of the combination of letters that make meaning. Her 10-piece Plague Series, included in the exhibition, portrays each of the plagues visited by God on the Egyptians in the Jewish Passover story; the name of each plague is repeated over and over against a different background color from the green of Frogs to the cold grayish purple of Pestilence.
The Joint Work is at the heart of Intersections: Reading the Space. The cloth was not just a collaborative negotiation between the women, but an act of great faith as each entrusted an evolving piece of work to one another. According to Barberis, the piece began as a gentle conversation, each woman working adjacent to but respectful of the other’s space. The aesthetic of the piece that emerged from the first two circulations was beautiful and delicate with soft, pastel colors. It was Forouhar who decided to move out of what she calls the “small talk” phase in the third circuit of the cloth. Her final contribution was confrontational. She introduced bright color in her calligraphy and appliqued patches of Persian mourning cloth to the piece. Upon receiving the drastically altered work, both Logemann and Barberis had to completely rethink their approach to this new arena of meaning. Both seized the possibility of change and, with their own final additions, shifted the language of the collaboration.
Intersections: Reading the Space is an exhibition from the Jewish Museum of Australia, Gandel Centre of Judaica. The San Francisco presentation is made possible through major support from The Simcha Foundation and The Estate of Naomi Koch Estess. Additional support for the exhibition has been provided by the Consulate General of Australia, Hotel Griffon, and Qantas Airlines.
The CJM gratefully acknowledges the generous support of a grant from an anonymous Supporting Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, The Simcha Foundation, Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, anonymous donors, and the Members of The CJM. The Museum is a beneficiary of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties.