CJM show explores the evolution of ritual 

What curators call “a tidal wave of feminism, environmentalism and more that has swept through Judaism” in recent years is the focus of an exhibit opening today at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Coming from New York, “Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life” features works by 58 artists from America, Israel, Canada, Chile and elsewhere.

The common thread: They have tailored Judaic rituals to their own values and identities.

The exhibit includes 60 innovative works in media including installation art, video, drawing, metalwork, jewelry, ceramics, comics, sculpture, textiles, industrial design and architecture created between 1999 and 2009 by leading Jewish artists.

Connie Wolf, executive director of the CJM, says “Reinventing Ritual” is the first international show to explore how artists and designers are transforming traditional practices into contemporary and practical items.

Some examples from the show:

  • Allan Wexler’s sukkah (temporary hut for holidays) converts into a gardening shed.
  • A sculpture by Helène Aylon, “All Rise,” addresses the  tradition that allows men to pass judgment in the Jewish Court but forbids women to do so. Aylon’s installation, described as an “egalitarian vision of the future,” is a courtroom that administers feminist Jewish law.
  • A work by Studio Armadillo (the Israeli artist team of Hadas Kruk and Anat Stein) called “Hevruta-Mituta” is made of 32 skullcaps on a white plastic chessboard. The piece explores a conceptual and visual analogy between “hevruta” (learning in small groups) and chess competitions. The skullcaps — knit by girls during lessons in religious school — are “emblems of women’s increasing access to traditionally male-dominated Orthodox Jewish education and ritual.”
  • “Fringed Garment,” fiber artist Rachel Kanter’s piece that combines a kitchen apron and a “tallit,” or prayer shawl — until recently worn only by  men — in a practical design for specifically for women. “If I wanted to wear a tallit, it should be made for me and speak of my experiences as a spiritual Jew, a woman and a mother,” Kanter says.
  • Israeli artist Bruria Avidan’s “Wedding Cup” is a silver prayer cup that blends ritual function and form. It breaks into two halves; the husband and wife unite the two parts, which, according to the artist, “concretizes the main idea of Jewish marriage, binding two who come together to form a single whole.”


IF YOU GO
Reinventing Ritual

Where:
Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
When: Opens today; 11 a.m. 5 p.m. daily except closed Wednesdays; closes Oct. 3
Tickets: $8 to $10, free for those under 18
Contact: (415) 655-7800, www.thecjm.org

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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