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Do not Destroy: Trees, Art and Jewish Thought

The Contemporary Jewish Museum presents:

"Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art, and Jewish Thought" - An Exhibition and The Dorothy Saxe Invitational

February 16 – May 28, 2012

From the very first chapters of the Torah where one encounters them in the Garden of Eden, to the commandment Bal Tashchit (do not destroy) found in Deuteronomy forbidding their wanton destruction during wartime, trees occupy a particularly potent and symbolic place in Jewish literature and lore as expressions of paradise, regeneration, shelter, the bounty of the earth, longevity, and even as a precursor to the coming of the Messiah.

A new three-part exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM), Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art, and Jewish Thought, explores the role of the tree in Jewish tradition and beyond through the lens of contemporary artists, offering fresh perspectives on ritual practice and our connection to the natural world.

The companion exhibitions include the continuation of The Dorothy Saxe Invitational, an exhibition series in which artists from diverse backgrounds and working in a range of media are invited to explore Jewish ritual objects (this year focusing on the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for the Trees), as well as a selection of work examining the tree more widely in contemporary art practice by international artists including Gabriela Albergaria, Zadok Ben David, Joseph Beuys, April Gornik, Charles Labelle, Rodney Graham, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, Yoko Ono, Roxy Paine, Tal Shochat, and more. The third component is the expansion of the exhibition beyond the walls of the Museum on to the Jessie Square Plaza with a commission by the San Francisco-based environmental design firm Rebar.

“While we were inspired to create this exhibition by the particular significance of trees in Judaism, especially now as global environmental concerns have begun to impact contemporary Jewish practice, the tree is a universally potent symbol in many cultures and religions,” says curator Dara Solomon. “Taken together, these exhibitions are an opportunity for everyone to commune with trees through video, photography, sculpture and painting – to be awed by their scale, their longevity, and their ability to encourage deeper thinking about history, the environment, and our place in it. We invite the public to consider the ancient dictum of Do Not Destroy, a commandment to not only protect trees but to dream of a better world.”