Friday, September 11, 2020 | 12pm
ADMISSION: This online program is free and open to Members; advanced registration required
Ignite your curiosity and sense of wonder with this live, virtual conversation between Stephen Berkman, the artist behind the exhibition Predicting the Past: Zohar Studios, The Lost Years (on view now at The CJM), and author Lawrence Weschler (Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders), followed by an exclusive Members' Q&A with the speakers. In this wide-ranging meeting of two unique minds, Berkman and Weschler will dive into the mysterious origins of Berkman’s uncanny photographs, exploring the origins of photography, Victorian idiosyncrasy, the nature of storytelling, and Jewish life in New York’s lower-east side at the turn of the century.
This online Zoom event is free and open to Members. Please note that a Zoom account is required to register for the program. If you do not have a Zoom account, please create one by clicking "Sign up free" at the top of the registration page.
Can't make it to the Members-only live program? One week after the Member event and Q&A, we'll share a recording of the program with the public via The CJM's Facebook page.
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Born in Syracuse New York and now based in Pasadena, California, Stephen Berkman's work revolves around the use of antiquated photographic and optical processes. Having worked with the wet collodion process since 1997, Berkman exploits the archaic quality of the medium to reimagine the nineteenth century and create displacements between notions of the past and the present. In his work, history is viewed as an evolving work in progress still open to moments of serendipity.
Berkman’s work has been featured in the definitive compendium on the revival of historic photography: Photography’s Antiquarian Avant-Garde, published by Abrams in 2002 and authored by New York Times contributor Lyle Rexer, as well as in Blind Spot; Art in America; i-D magazine; and the book The Journal of Contemporary Photography: Strange Genius, among others.
Berkman’s photographs have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at The Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA) Laband Gallery; University of Southern California, Cepa; and the Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. His photographs are in the permanent collections of MoPA and Portland Art Museum. In addition to his fine art work, Berkman has been commissioned to create historic photographs for many films and documentaries, including Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; and Cold Mountain. Berkman currently is on the film faculty at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he has taught since 1995.
Lawrence Weschler, a graduate of Cowell College at UC Santa Cruz (1974), was a staff writer for twenty years at The New Yorker (1981–2001), where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies; he then worked for thirteen years (2001–2014) as the director, now emeritus, of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, where he insisted on counting the sciences as one of the crowning jewels of "the humanities." Weschler has been a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Harper's, McSweeney's, and The Believer, among others. Weschler is also the author of nearly twenty books, including Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin; Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder (on the Museum of Jurassic Technology); Vermeer in Bosnia; Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences; Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists; and, most recently, And How Are You, Doctor Sacks? (a biographical memoir of Weschler’s thirty-five-year friendship with neurologist Oliver Sacks).
Predicting the Past: Zohar Studios, The Lost Years includes photography and installation by Los Angeles-based artist Stephen Berkman, who grew up in the Bay Area. The exhibition features images by the nineteenth century Jewish immigrant photographer Shimmel Zohar from his studio on the Lower East Side in New York City. Prints in elaborate Victorian frames address both Jewish life and the scientific state of understanding over one hundred years ago. In addition, environmental installations utilize antique technological visual phenomena.
Predicting the Past: Zohar Studios, The Lost Years is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum. Leadership support is generously provided by Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt, The Bernard Osher Foundation, and the John Pritzker Family Fund. Major support is provided by Anonymous, Joyce B. Linker, and Dorothy R. Saxe.
Media Sponsorship is provided by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Public Programs at The CJM are made possible thanks to generous support from Grants for the Arts and the Walter & Elise Haas Fund.