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Sculptors & Sculpture: Jewish Humanism or Jews Discover the Human Form

Hosted By: Orange County Community Scholar Program (CSP)

Part 2 of 3.

In this series of three lectures art historian Dr. Samuel Gruber explores the uneasy relationship between Jews, Judaism, and the art of sculpture. Mostly, he will introduce a wide variety of sculpted ritual metalwork from the 16th through the 21st centuries, and an even larger selection of representational and abstract sculpture made by dozens of Jewish artists from the late 19th century until today. Dr. Gruber will introduce us to works by little known but influential and inspired Jewish artists and to some of the major names in 20th century art (who just happen to be Jewish).

In the late 19th-century, a small number of Jewish artists began to study sculpture at academies of art. Mark Antokolsky (1840-1902) in Russia and Boris Schatz (1867-1932) in Bulgaria became leading figurative sculptures in their countries. In the United States Jewish sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel (1844-1917) created public monuments, portrait busts, and allegorical statues in the then prevalent academic style. These sculptors and others made art similar to that of their Christian contemporaries, but they also went out of their way to include some Jewish religious or cultural themes. Jesus was made to look Jewish, and many sculptors chose characters from the Hebrew Bible as the subjects for their heroic statuary. This was about asserting Jewish identity and for some was part of an overtly Zionist artistic agenda. During the interwar period, a much larger generation of Jewish sculptors arose, working in Paris and New York. Coming late to the party, they embraced the human figure as the core expressive element of their work.

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Samuel D. Gruber, Ph.D

Dr. Gruber is an accomplished researcher, author, curator and consultant, is the founder and managing director of Gruber Heritage Global (GHG) - a cultural resources consulting firm. For more than twenty years he has been a leader in the documentation, protection, preservation and presentation of Jewish cultural heritage sites around the world. He was written two books about synagogue architecture; American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture and Jewish Community (2003) and Synagogues (1999), and has contributed numerous chapters, articles and conference papers to other publications. Since 2008 he has written a popular blog "Samuel Gruber's Jewish Art and Monuments." Dr. Gruber has a B.A, in Medieval Studies from Princeton University, and M.A, M.Phil. and Ph.D. Degrees from Columbia University in Art History and Archeology; with a specialization in the history of architecture. He is a Rome Prize winner and Fellow of the American Academy of Rome and has received numerous research grants and has participated in many grant-funded team projects. Dr. Gruber has taught in the Jewish Studies Program at Syracuse University since 1994 and has given courses at Binghamton, Colgate, Columbia, Cornell and Temple Universities and LeMoyne College where he has taught about medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Jewish art and architecture; Holocaust art and memory; and the history of plastics. Dr. Gruber lives in Syracuse, NY where he is an active member of Temple Concord, is past president of the Preservation Association of Central New York (PACNY) and is active in local art, history, and architecture efforts.
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