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Funding provided by an Innovation Grant of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton, in partnership with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Dayton, Beth Abraham Synagogue, Beth Jacob Congregation, Temple Beth Or, Temple Israel and the Dayton Art Institute.

Look At Us Committee: Ruth Schumacher & Wendy Gray (Co-Chairs), Stacy Emoff (JCC Program Coordinator), Mark Gruenberg, Noah Gruenberg, Helen Halcomb, Scott Liberman, and Linda Novak.

Check back on August 7th for Launch #2, featuring local Jewish artists. Then join us on Wednesday, August 21st from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. for a very special event at the Dayton Art Institute. No cost. For more information and to RSVP, click here!

Jewish Artists at the Dayton Art Institute: The Stories That We Tell

Think of your life, what stories come to mind? When you tell a story to your friends and family, what emotion do you feel? Laughter? Fear? Sadness? We all have stories to tell and, often, people choose to tell their stories through art. This article will dive into the lives of three Jewish Artists who are on display at the Dayton Art Institute. These artists span different mediums, time periods, and locations, but they all have the Dayton Art Institute in common. The DAI is a place to tell their stories and showcase their artwork. Together, we will explore a portion of the lives and stories of Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, and Alexander Liberman.

Sol LeWitt (1928-2007)
Sol LeWitt was born in Hartford, Connecticut after his family emigrated from Russia. He was drafted into the Korean war in 1951, but that could not stop his love for creating. Upon returning to the United States, LeWitt studied at Syracuse University School of Visual Arts, opened a studio and even became a night receptionist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. LeWitt is thought to be one of the founders of minimalist art. Minimalism is a trend in art that came about in the 1950s. Sculptures and paintings use extremely simple shapes, colors and designs. He is most known for his “cubed” sculptures like 331/313 (1975), which is on display at the Dayton Art Institute. Many of his early pieces of artwork focused on the goal of exploring shapes and structures in an impersonal way without meaning or emotions attached. While LeWitt held himself to creating artwork without meaning, emotions or influence of his culture and religious beliefs, those self-imposed rules began to loosen in the 1980s and 1990s. LeWitt was commissioned to create prints including the Jewish Star of David titled Shul Print (Six-Pointed Star) (2005) and a print titled Black Form (Dedicated to the Missing Jews) (1987). As one of his last projects, LeWitt collaborated with another architect to build a synagogue in Connecticut. It is an homage to the lost wooden synagogues of Poland destroyed in World War II. It included exposed timbers with triangles to make a huge six-pointed star on the ceiling. Sol LeWitt is a great example of how we can share what is important to us with the world through the simplest forms.

331/313 (1975) Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007)

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Roy Lichtenstein loved art from a young age. Born in New York City, he took art classes at the Parsons School of Design from the age of 14. His love of art led him to attend the Ohio State University to pursue his degree in Fine Arts. While in Columbus, Ohio, Lichtenstein was drafted into the Army in 1943 and served in Europe until 1946. Throughout his time in World War II, he sketched and studied while experiencing combat. He returned to Columbus to finish his bachelor’s degree in fine arts, become an Art Instructor and pursued his master’s degree in fine arts. Lichtenstein is one of the most innovative and influential Pop Artists along with Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. His artwork was inspired by comic strips to express his thoughts in comedic fashion. He often chose to use Pop Art to question the boundaries between “high art” and “low” forms of art. Like one of his sculptures on display at the DAI, Brushstrokes in Flight (Homage to Painting) (1983) showcases how painting is important to him. He often chose to portray an “emotionally strong [subject]– usually love war or something that was highly-charged and emotional” (Lichtenstein, 1967) through a comic book style that feels rebellious and contrasting. In his later years, Lichenstein used his style to express his beliefs as a protest of intense subjects. Through Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Art style, we can see that art is a way to share stories and sometimes unassuming mediums like comic book art can be a road to discuss heavy topics.

Brushstrokes in Flight (Homage to Painting) (1983) Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997)

Alexander Liberman (1912-1999)
Another artist featured in the Dayton Art Institute’s Sculpture Garden is Alexander Liberman. Liberman was born in Kyiv in 1912. His family narrowly avoided a Nazi attack by fleeing to an unoccupied zone in France. They made their way through Spain and eventually to New York in 1941. From there, Liberman became a well-known art director at the magazine Vogue. He was also very well-known for being a particularly harsh critic and a tough boss to work under during that time. While he was a difficult person to work for, he was often described as a loving family man outside of his professional life. In the late 1950s, Liberman began to weld steel and started making sculptures on a larger scale. These massive sculptures used basic shapes and colors but have vivid titles which communicate a message to the audience. Many of these sculptures have impactful titles that represent Liberman’s ideologies. For example, Firmament (1969-1970) is a grouping of red steel tubes. The word “firmament” means the heavens or the sky, especially when viewed as a tangible thing. In addition, Liberman has titled sculptures as Stargazer, Gate of Hope, Faith and Ritual II. All of these sculptures, while simple shapes, hold deep meaning for Liberman. Liberman was an intense professional, loved by his family who created huge works of art capturing his truest form and truest beliefs. Art can be a road to tell the world the story of who we are and what we believe in.

Firmament (1969-1970) Alexander Liberman (American, born Russian, 1912-1999)

Final Thoughts
Telling stories is a natural human reaction to experiences throughout our life. Art, as seen by these three talented Jewish artists, can be an easy way to share stories about ourselves. Whether we are using simple shapes to comment on complicated topics, sharing our thoughts about heavy topics through comic strips or telling the world who we truly are, art is a great way to learn the stories of others. Thank you for taking the time to learn the stories of Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein and Alexander Liberman. Visit the Dayton Art Institute for these artists’ stories, and more like Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Brackman, Ad Reinhardt, and Camille Pissarro.

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