A new exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco features works of local and national artists in "New Works/Old Story: 80 Artists at the Passover Table."
The Dorothy Saxe Invitational exhibition builds upon the museum's tradition of inviting artists from a variety of backgrounds to explore a Jewish ceremonial object, holiday, or concept within the context of their own mediums and artistic philosophy.
Passover is perhaps the most celebrated Jewish holiday and the seder, a home-based ceremony and meal, occurs on the first night of the eight-day holiday. At the heart of this ritual is the seder plate that holds the various ritual foods that symbolize the holiday. The seder commemorates a key event in Judaism: the redemption of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt. In contemporary times, the Passover seder has more broadly come to include themes of renewal and rebirth, freedom from oppression, and social justice and activism.
Participating artists were encouraged to engage in the core Jewish traditions of interpretation and dialogue and interpret the traditional object from a contemporary perspective, exploring its ongoing relevance and universality.
"It's really a perfect exhibition for us," said Dara Solomon, associate curator. "Asking contemporary artists who work in a range of mediums to reimagine, reconceptualize a seder plate for the contemporary times. To think about all the different relevant issues related to the holiday that is about freedom from opression."
Through the Invitationals, the Museum encourages participants to consider the relevance of an object and what it symbolizes - both within and outside of the Jewish tradition. For many of Jewish heritage, it is an opportunity to revisit or to learn more about one's own culture. And for others, the Invitational offers the opportunity to explore Jewish culture and to recognize parallels in their own traditions. Previous Invitationals have featured tzedakah boxes, spice boxes, Kiddish cups, and menorahs.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum is a short walk from either the Powell Street or Montgomery Street BART stations, on Mission between Third and Fourth Streets. For museum hours and ticket information, to to http://www.thecjm.org
BARTtv interviews two of the artists featured in the current exhibit; find out more about their inspiration and work. The exhibit runs through June 2.