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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Works by Jewish artists to be on display

Thirty-eight works from one of the country’s most ambitious collection of Jewish artists, amassed over five decades by Sigmund R. Balka, will be on display through January at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester.
The opening of the exhibit, including a reception and a talk by Balka, will take place at 2 p.m. Oct. 10.
Artists represented include: Saul Raskin, renowned illustrator, engraver and etcher; hyper-realist Max Ferguson, whose etching, “My Father in the Empire State Building,” is an example of master craftsmanship; and groundbreaking female artists Selma Bluestein and Ruth Leaf, organizers said in a statement.
The exhibit, co-sponsored by the synagogue and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, "brings together paintings, drawings, prints and photographs that reflect and record impressions of Jewish life and culture during the golden age of creativity," the statement said.
“I am enormously grateful to Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek for their vision in making it possible for many of us to view the distinguished Sigmund Balka Collection," Jewish Federation CEO Sydney A. Perry said in the statement. "The artists that the collector so carefully chose for his collection allow us to view 200 years of Jewish history. The paintings, prints and graphics provide us with the major themes of the past two centuries of Jewish life... tradition, worship, assimilation, immigration, the struggle for human rights and social justice and the Shoah.
“The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven is proud to co-sponsor this event with CBSRZ. It is a unique opportunity to see these works of art and to contemplate the visual memory of the experiences and values of the Jewish people. It is truly a gift to our community.”
The works on display are from a collection housed at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. Laura Kruger, the collection’s curator, who will speak at the opening, said, “Sigmund Balka recognized that the 20th century was a threshold for Jewish artists. The adherence to the second commandment, ‘Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,’ kept most observant Jews from creative graphic expression for millennia.
“Persecution, exile, dislocation and economic restrictions added another dimension that stifled creativity. Not until the mid-19th century, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Emancipation of the Jews, did Jewish artists, depicting Jewish subjects, began to make an appearance.
“Virtually all Jewish artists working in America are permanently impacted by their own epic immigration or that of their parents, by the struggle for acceptance in the American culture, the economic devastation of the Great Depression, and the ultimate horror of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The shades and depth of bleak survival differ for each individual, but it is always present in each work. The more joyful scenes have a tentative suggestion of threat, of impermanence. The hope-deprived Holocaust images are despair incarnate…. The artists in this collection are linked together by their heritage and memories.”
Sigmund R. Balka has been associated with Krasdale Foods since 1980, where he is vice president of public and cultural affairs and general counsel. He is director of the Krasdale Galleries in White Plains and New York City, where he has curated more than 100 exhibitions of contemporary art by artists from around the world.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek is at 55 E. Kings Highway, in Chester. Phone 860 526-8920 for more information, or log on to
Shown is: "The Blessing" - by Razel Kapustin (1952)


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