On View: April 5 – May 14, 2021
Adas Israel Congregation is presenting Authenticity and Identity, beginning April 5, 2021. Originally scheduled to open in April 2020, Authenticity and Identity is an exhibition curated by Ori Z Soltes, a professor at Georgetown University’s Center for the Study of Jewish Civilization, who for four decades has engaged critically with Jewish artwork, politics and culture. The exhibition looks at how artists respond to the challenges of Jewish identity, including exclusion, bigotry, ritual, and Jewish cultural touchstones. On view through May 14, 2021, the exhibition addresses women’s rights issues, assimilation, cultural appropriation, and cultural identity. Admission is free; timed tickets required.
Conceived from a starting point in 2018 of addressing the challenges contemporary Jewish artists face, this exhibition uses a set of lenses to consider how artists represent their identities. The relevance of this exhibition has become more acute as the country reels from police brutality towards people of color and reckons with the history of systemic racism. In the organization of this project Ori Z. Soltes has acted as curator, researcher, and author, supported by exhibition director Robert Bettmann (of the non-profit Day Eight.).
The exhibition brings together more than 40 artistic voices, including contemporary Israeli artists, European artists, and artists from around the United States, including the Washington, D.C. region.
Approximately half the included works are by D.C. region artists, and the exhibition is produced in partnership with the Jewish Artists of the National Capital Region. The installation juxtaposes diverse works, making thematic connections across time and place, raising questions and fostering dialogue.
Featuring more than 70 works of painting, sculpture, photography, and printmaking, the exhibition includes examples of Jewish ritual objects, as well as abstract works, portraits, public artwork maquettes, and more.
“As Jewish participation in the visual arts has expanded in the past two centuries, one of the questions asked by Jewish artists has been: where exactly do we fit into the history of Western art which, for much of the past fifteen centuries has been essentially Christian art,” Ori Z. Soltes said. “More recently, and with increasing intensity, for Jewish women artists, that question interweaves the double question of where they fit into the history of Western art not only as Jewish artists but as women artists, given the fairly consistent history of excluding women as artists, regardless of their talent—and where, on the other hand, they fit into the history of Judaism, with its traditional exclusions of women from many of its most important liturgical and other aspects.”
The exhibition’s title, Authenticity and Identity, was conceived by exhibition director Robert Bettmann, a founder of the Jewish Artists of the National Capital Region, reflecting on the ways that tokens of identity can seem to overtake substantive engagement in the practice of faith and art equally. The exhibition is supported by Adas Israel Congregation, a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and Hazon’s Hakhel Jewish Community Incubator, and was developed to particularly bring DC area artists into conversation with artists around the world.
For the organization of this exhibition Soltes took inspiration from the hundreds of artworks submitted in articulating six thematic areas. Soltes authored a 10,000-word catalog essay reflecting on the themes, and artworks, to be published by Day Eight simultaneously with the exhibition. An online exhibition will accompany the physical display. The essay by Soltes builds on his decades of scholarship and curation, including his books Modern Jewish Art: Definitions, Problems, and Opportunities (Brill, 2018), and Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture
(Canal Street, 2016.)
Artists in the Exhibition
Heddy Abramowitz * Dr. Barry Alpert * Michele Amira Pinczuk * Avrum Ashery * Marilyn Banner * Joe Baur * Rick Black * Adam Brown * Cassandra Clark * Deborah Addison Coburn * Kalman Gavriel Delmoor * Edna Kurtz Emmet * Zoe Feldman * Anna Fine Foer * Diane Fredgant * Barbara Gelman * Barry Goldstein * KJ Hannah Greenberg * Goldie Gross * Jonathan Hertzel * Julia Ilyutovich * Ronni Jolles * Judith Joseph * Rachel Kanter * Karey Kessler * Aaron Koster * Diana Kurz * Geoffrey Laurence * Stacy Leeman * Tanya Levina * Shelley Lowenstein * Susie Lubell * Ruth Simon McRae * Yevgeniya Pavlova * Leah Raab * Jacob Rath * Philip Ratner * Gail Rebhan * Rachel Ahava Rosenfeld * Susan Schrott * Eliyahu Shafer * Stephen Sholl * Joel Silverstein * Hillel Smith * Peter Sprung * Josh Stein * Miriam Stern * Heather Stoltz * Adrienne Torrey * Karen Warshal * Joyce Ellen Weinstein * Mil Wexler * Nona Zilberberg * Bonnie Zuckerman * Billha Zussman
About Ori Z Soltes
Ori Z Soltes is a pre-eminent scholar of Jewish art, culture, and history. He is the former Director the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum. As co-founding Director of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project he has spent twenty years focused on the issue of Nazi-plundered art. Soltes has authored or edited 25 books and scores of articles and exhibition catalogue essays. Recent volumes include Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draw from the Same Source; The Ashen Rainbow: Essays on the Arts and the Holocaust; Mysticism in Judaism. Christianity and Islam: Searching for Oneness; Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish art and Architecture; Magic and Religion in the Greco-Roman World: The Beginnings of Judaism and Christianity; and God and the Goalposts: A Brief History of Sports, Religion, Politics, War, and Art.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Adas Israel Congregation will present a series of virtual public programs featuring lectures, discussions, and art workshops reflecting on the ideas raised by the art on view. Highlights include a lecture by the curator considering the scope of Jewish visual art; an online forum with ten DC-area Jewish artists; a panel discussion on the exhibition topic moderated by the exhibition director; a panel discussion on religious artifacts moderated by Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, a blind female rabbi who offers a unique perspective on art and creativity; and a closing night celebration and online art sale with the artists. Program details will be available on the exhibition website.
Authenticity and Identity is made possible by support from Adas Israel Congregation, the Jewish Artists of the National Capital Region and the Hakhel Incubator program, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
About Adas Israel Congregation
Located in Washington, D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood, Adas Israel Congregation is the largest Conservative synagogue in Washington, DC.
Exhibition Hours (beginning Wednesday, April 7):
- Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 12-1pm
- and other times by request only.
Admission: Free for all. Timed tickets are necessary for all visitors to help the exhibition maintain a reduced building capacity and a socially distanced experience for all visitors. Strict Covid guidelines provided upon registration. Reserve tickets online: https://www.adasisrael.org/form/art-exhibit-2021.html
Information: The public may visit AuthenticityandIdentity.com
The exhibition is located at 2850 Quebec St. NW.