The Greatest Jewish Achievements
in Modern Art
    Presented by Tobi Kahn

Location: TACT Studio - 900 Broadway, Suite 905, Manhattan, NY 10003 (corner of 20th St.)
Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
Time: 6:00pm Doors, 6:30 Lecture, 7:30 Wine and Cheese reception

Synopsis: Tobi Kahn, an award-winning, internationally recognized artist and lecturer, takes the audience through the most significant achievements in Jewish modern art. Well-known artists and works will be discussed from historical, Jewish, and artistic angles. A wine and cheese reception will follow the presentation.

Price: Sold Out

Related Materials: The following information pages and educational tools are available on The Art Story website and will be partialy utilized during this event.
The Greatest Jewish Modern Art Achievements Timeline
Mark Rothko Jewish Themes Overview

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This event is made possible through a grant by the Blueprint Fellowship project of COJECO, funded by the UJA-Federation of New York and Genesis Philanthropy Group, with support from RJeneration.
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Adolph Gottlieb

Adolph Gottlieb was an Abstract Expressionist painter who commonly used grids, pictographs, and primitive symbols in his work.

Ilya Bolotowsky

Ilya Bolotowsky was a Russian-born American artist and long-time instructor at Black Mountain College. After immigrating to the U.S. in 1923, he became a member of "The Ten," along with artists Rothko and Gottlieb, and later on was a founding member of The American Abstract Artists. His work contributed greatly to the styles of Neo-Plasticism and Geometric Abstraction.



Perhaps the most influential avant-garde movement of the century, Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Much influenced by Freud, they believed that the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.

Abstract Expressionism

A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and 1950s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraces the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma.


Austrian performance artist VALIE EXPORT is known for her guerilla performance pieces, as well as her video and sculptural work, much of which focuses on the female body and feminist ideals.

Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag was an American novelist, essayist, theorist, political activist and filmmaker known particularly for her influential essays on modern culture.


German artist Ulay, born Frank Uwe Laysiepen, is a performance artist known for his works during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly his 12-year collaboration with Mark Rothko.

Conceptual Art

The practice of Conceptual art became popular after the 1960s and presented people with an idea about art, which was more significant than the completion of a tangible and traditional work of 'art'. The aim was to create a concept that obliged people to consider the nature of art itself, and decide for themselves whether what was present was a work of art.

Performance Art

Performance art is a modern form of art that emphasizes the experiential and the relationship between performer and audience. It developed in the 1960s with such artists as Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, Mark Rothko and Allan Kaprow. Not to be confused with the performing arts (dance, theater and music), Performance art is closely related to Conceptual art, in which any inherent meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta was a Cuban-American performance artist who created work in the late 20th century focused on violence against the female body, as well as pieces involving a close connection with nature and the landscape.

Matthew Barney

Matthew Barney creates artworks based in film, photography, performance and drawing, most notably his on-going Drawing Restraint series and the five films entitled Cremaster Cycle.

Coco Fusco

Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco spans disciplines including performance, writing and electronic media. Her work deals with issues of women, race, war and Latin America.

Karen Finley

Karen Finley's performance pieces are often graphic representations of sexuality and violence. Her public works, installations and drawings have been seen worldwide since the 1980s.

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson is a musician and performance artist who, since the 1970s, has made experimental works using song, violin, keyboard and instruments of her own creation. She has international acclaim for her work and has collaborated with Lou Reed, Phillip Glass, Frank Zappa, amongst others.

Charles Atlas

American video and film artist Charles Atlas has helped pioneer the art form in which artists create performances existing only on film, collaborating with numerous dance and performance artists.

Feminist Art

Feminist art emerged in the 1960s and 70s to explore questions of sex, power, the body, and the ways in which gender categories structure how we see and understand the world. Developing at the same time as many new media strategies, feminist art frequently involves text, installation, and performance elements.

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg, a key figure in early Pop art, admired the textural quality of Abstract Expressionism but scorned its emotional pathos. His famous "Combines" are part sculpture, part painting, and part installation.

Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns is an American artist who rose to prominence in the late 1950s for his multi-media constructions, dubbed by critics as Neo-Dada. Johns' work, including his world-famous targets and American flags series, were important predecessors to Pop art.

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson was a Russian-born American artist who worked in the WPA and was a member of the Abstract Expressionist scene. She is best known for her black-painted constructions of assembled crates, boxes, headboards, and other wooden materials.

Street Scene

Title: Street Scene

Description: Street Scene was created when Rothko was associated with The Ten and employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Created in the expressive strain of Social Realism Rothko practiced in the 1930s (and abandoned the following decade), the painting depicts two children protectively guided down a row of steps by a patriarchal figure.

With his long beard, tallis, and yarmulke, the figure recalls Rothko's early religious upbringing, while the otherwise empty street, window-less classical facade, muted palette, and worried expressions on the children's faces convey a mood of sadness and alienation-perhaps echoing the displacement Rothko experienced following his and his family's immigration to the United States several decades earlier.

Year: 1936

Materials: Oil on canvas

The Omen of the Eagle

Title: The Omen of the Eagle

Description: Although Rothko described The Omen of the Eagle as "deal[ing] not with a particular anecdote, but rather with the Spirit of Myth, which is generic to all myths at all times," the painting had a specific mythological source-the Greek play Agamemnon.

Its The title of the painting refers to an episode that occurs early in the play-the chorus' description of an omen where two eagles devour a pregnant hare. The eagles in question represented the king Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus, who summoned Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to avenge the abduction of Menelaus's wife, Helen of Troy.

Agamemnon and Menelaus appear in several guises in The Omen of the Eagle. In the top level of this multi-tiered painting, they are represented by the yellow heads that are, as one scholar recently proposed, calling for war; in the second tier, they take the form of eagles, whose heads are suggested by the flesh-colored pear-like shapes and whose wings and feathers are evoked in the red and purple linear forms. As the eagle was the national symbol of Germany at the time this was painted, Rothko is here presumably likening the two brothers' acts of violence against the citizens of Troy (including members of their own family) to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. This is supported by the possible inclusion of the Hebrew word chai (life) in the third tier of the painting, suggested in the right side of the arcade-like motif on which the eagles appear to be seated.

Year: 1942

Materials: Oil and graphite on canvas

Entombment I

Title: Entombment I

Description: This painting, as well as Rothko's other treatments of the Entombment created around that time, address an aspect of Jewish burial practice, specifically the notion that a proper burial is needed for a Jew's soul to find peace and leave the body. Featuring a horizontal figure attended by several vertical figures, Entombment I evokes other Christian subject matter from the history of art, including the Pieta, in which the Virgin Mary sits and grieves over her dead son. The painting also features a motif not seen in Rothko's earlier work: wartime portrayals of the Entombment, seen in the floating, seemingly weightless form located near the top of the composition. Rendered in black outline, this motif may symbolize the souls of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, denied the chance for a proper burial.

Year: 1946

Materials: Gouache on paper

Black on Maroon

Title: Black on Maroon

Description: In 1958, Rothko was commissioned to create one of his most important color-inspired paintings: Black on Maroon, a 600-square-foot mural for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York. In the course of his work on the commission, the artist shifted from bright and intense hues to the dark red, maroon and black referenced in the title; in place of the stacked rectangles of his color field paintings, the mural panels feature a more architectural scheme, containing dark forms suggestive of doorways or other orifices.

With Black and Maroon, Rothko sought to create an oppressive, claustrophobic environment, largely inspired by Michelangelo's Laurentian Library in Florence, which, in Rothko's words, "achieved just the kind of feeling I'm after... [in which] the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up." Various writers described Black on Maroon in terms evoking the Holocaust. The artist himself perceived the work's connection to the tragedy, as reflected in his proposal to the German art historian Werner Haftmann that he decorate a chapel memorializing the Holocaust-a proposal made apropos of the piece.

Year: 1958-59

Materials: Oil on canvas