Books from the world’s most prestigious Museums and Art Galleries (Part Four: Jewish Museum, New York)

Every Friday on this blog, we take an in-depth look at one of the Yale University Press’s world-famous museum partners. In the fourth part in our series, we will be visiting the Jewish Museum of New York, home to one of the largest collections of Jewish art in the world, amounting to 4,000 years of Jewish culture.

In London this week, the Jewish Museum in Camden launched a new exhibition celebrating the contribution of Jewish immigrants to British popular culture. Featuring the likes of Amy Winehouse, Mike Leigh, Marc Bolan, Matt Lucas and Sacha Baron Cohen, the exhibition showcases Jewish talent in the spheres of pop, rock, comedy and entertainment in general. For those interested in Jewish culture throughout history, and how it has influenced modern and contemporary art, a visit to The Jewish Musuem of New York would certainly be just as worthwhile. Founded in 1904 with just 26 donated objects, the Museum has grown exponentially, with its collections now containing 27,000 items, ranging from archaeological artifacts to works by today’s cutting-edge artists.

What to see: The Museum’s permanent exhibition, Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey tells the story of the Jewish people through more than 800 works of art chosen from the Museum’s diverse holdings of paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, installation art, decorative arts, antiquities and media. Artists included in the collection include James Tissot, Marc Chagall, George Segal, Eleanor Antin and Deborah Kass. Modern and contemporary art works of particular note include Self-Portrait with Camera (Man Ray), Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century (Andy Warhol), Untitled (Eva Hesse), The Steerage (Alfred Stieglitz) and Old Man with Beard (Marc Chagall). Those interested in artifacts from Jewish history should check out the museum’s large collection of Judaica (the largest outside of Israel).

Jewish Museum Books available from Yale

Houdini: Art and Magic
by Brooke Kamin Rapaport


Houdini: Art and Magic

Born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary, Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was a rabbi’s son who became one of the 20th century’s most famous performers. His gripping theatrical presentations and heart-stopping outdoor spectacles attracted unprecedented crowds, and his talent for self-promotion and provocation captured headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. Though Houdini’s work has earned him a place in the cultural pantheon, the details of his personal life and public persona are subjects of equal fascination. His success was both cause for celebration in the Jewish community and testament to his powers of self-reinvention. In Houdini: Art and Magic, essays on the artist’s life and work are accompanied by interviews with novelist E. L. Doctorow, magician Teller (of “Penn and Teller”), and contemporary artists including Raymond Pettibon and Matthew Barney, documenting Houdini’s evolution and influence from the late 19th century to the present. This book aims to bring Houdini – both the myth and the man – back to life. More

Alias Man Ray
by Mason Klein

Alias Man Ray

Alias Man Ray

Born Emmanuel Radnitzky, the artist known as Man Ray (1890-1976) revealed multiple artistic identities over the course of his career – New York Dedaist, Parisian Surrealist, international portraitist, and fashion photographer – and produced important works as a photographer, painter, filmmaker, writer, and maker of objects. Alias Man Ray considers how the artist’s life and career were shaped by his turn-of-the-century American Jewish immigrant experience and his lifelong evasion of his past. As an exploration of the artist’s deliberate cultural ambiguity, which allowed him to become the first American artist to be accepted by the Paris avant-garde, this book examines the dynamic connection between Man Ray’s working-class origins, his assimilation, the evolution of his art, and his willful construction of his own artistic persona, as evidenced in a series of subtle, encrypted self-references throughout the artist’s career. More

Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976
Edited by Norman L. Kleeblatt

Action Abstraction

Action / Abstraction

The abstract paintings of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Lee Krasner, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler and others revolutionized the art world in the 1940s and 1950s and continue to inspire passionate arguments to this day. What were these artists trying to achieve? Who were the critical voices of the time that rallied public interest in Abstract Expressionism and sparked rancorous debate? Drawing on recent critical, historical and biographical work, Action / Abstraction offers a sharp new focus on a pivotal art movement. It also presents an extensive commentary on the two most influential critics of postwar American art – Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg – whose powerful views shaped perceptions of Abstract Expressionism and other contemporary art movements. More

…and coming soon

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats (published Nov 2011)
by Claudia J. Nahson

The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day

In 1962, Ezra Jack Keats’ picture book The Snowy Day introduced readers to young Peter, the first African American protagonist in a full-colour children’s book, who traipsed alone through the snowy, wondrous sidewalks of New York City. The book was a runaway success, capturing the Caldecott Medal and selling more than two million copies. In The Snowy Day and subsequent books, Keats’ awareness of the city, its daily hum, and the role of its children are deeply felt and delicately rendered in words and bright collages and paintings. He made a prominent place for characters and places that had not been represented in children’s books, saying about Peter, ‘My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along’. Coinciding with The Snowy Day 50th anniversary, the current publication features more than 75 illustrations alongside essays by Claudia Nahson and Maurice Berger, who discuss Keats’ Jewish background, his advocacy of civil rights, his inventive art, and his wide-ranging influence. More

The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951
by Mason Klein, Catherine Evans

The Radical Camera

The Radical Camera

Artists in ‘the Photo League’, active from 1936 to 1951, were known for capturing sharply revealing, compelling moments from everyday life. Their focus centred on New York City and its vibrant streets – a newsboy at work, a brass band on a bustling corner, a crowded beach at Coney Island. Though beautiful, the images harbour strong social commentary on issues of class, child labour, and opportunity. The Radical Camera explores the fascinating blend of aesthetics and social activism at the heart of the Photo League, tracing the group’s left-leaning roots and idealism to the worker-photography movement in Europe. Presenting 150 works of the members of ‘the Photo League’ alongside complementary essays that offer new interpretations of the League’s work, ideas, and pedagogy, The Radical Camera features artists including Margaret Bourke-White, Sid Grossman, Morris Engel, Lisette Model, Ruth Orkin, Walter Rosenblum, Aaron Siskind, W. Eugene Smith, and Weegee, among many others. More

All of these books and others from the Jewish Museum series are available from Yale University Press.

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