Modern Judaica Art

Posted by Yevgeni Kuritski on 10th Jul 2014

Art is an expression of one’s feelings and beliefs, as well as a fair representation of a people’s history and evolution. This is also valid for Jewish art, which has shown, throughout time, the evolution of a people, as far as fine arts and Judaica art are concerned. It is also accurate to claim that the modern days have been faced with a veritable explosion of artistic display in the Jewish world. To name but a few, artists such as Yair Emanuel, David Gerstein, Lily Shohat, Shraga Landesman, Avner Agayof, Adina Plastelina, David Fisher and Marc Chagall are very well known and valued nowadays, due to their works.

Modern Judaica art is more about crafts and handmade rather than high art, as can be seen in Israel, where Judaica art is to be found mainly in local boutiques. Thus, purchasing Judaica art means buying traditional Jewish objects, such as menorahs, mezuzahs, candlesticks, Tzedakah boxes, Kiddush cups, which have been richly adorned by well-known artists, in a particular manner that would be a mark of their craft. Such painted traditional objects are also an expression of the value attached to the Jewish culture, which should be perceived not only in the traditional, serious manner, but also in an artisanal and ludic manner. Moreover, the association between art and culture is itself a celebration of the values and traditions of the Jewish people.

The above mentioned artists use all sorts of materials to craft their work: textiles, wood, metal even. For instance, Yair Emanuel produced different Judaica pieces, including garments, such as kippahs and tallits and cult-related objects, such as Sabbath candleholders, regular candlesticks, Kiddush cups, metal painted menorahs, metal Hamsa decorations, etc. His work is rich in color and decorations.

Lily Shohat is known for her production of practical objects, such as candleholders, Challah trays, menorahs, shofars, hamsas, etc. Her distinctive mark comes from the fact that all the objects are hand painted, and decorated with pieces of jewelry and plaques depicting fragments of sacred text. Both Shraga Landesman and Avner Agayof specialize in metal works. Their pieces are menorahs, Sabbath candlesticks in many shapes, Kiddush cups, Torah pointers, salt shakers, Tzedakah boxes, Challah knives, etc. While Avner’s work is rather minimalist, using aluminum, as well as plain forms and shapes, Landesman resorts to nature for inspiration which then transposes in metal forms.

Adina Plastelina is the name of a little workshop situated in Old Jaffa, specializing in making hamsas and mezuzahs out of polymer clay, as well as pieces of jewelry of gold and silver using the millefiori technique.

Another example of particular Judaica art is that of David Fisher. He creates lace-like paper decorations comprising floral motifs as well as depictions of significant images related to Judaism, such as pictures of old Jewish cities or insertions of sacred text.

Finally, David Gerstein is a world acclaimed sculptor as well as painter. His particularity is that his sculptures are hand painted. His works begin with traditional objects, such as a menorah or the Hamsa hand, which he then accessorizes and turns into a different thing altogether.