Mr. Rosen has written a fascinating work based on a particular critical lense. The issue of "Jewish Art" has elicited much debate over the last 20 years, from such diverse quarters as historians, cultural critics and artists. Sometimes this debate implies questions from within the Jewish Community as in "What is Jewish Art?", and sometimes from the larger Non-Jewish Art World, where issues of Jewish identity may be misunderstood or minimized for reasons which have nothing to do with Jewish culture and/or the respective artists. The author has traced a line or trajectory which runs from Chagall, to Guston, to Kitaj. They are all great and important artists with much to say, some of it about being Jewish. In the case of Guston, little is direct or overt in his Jewish references except his cultural background and a particular sense of alienation. This seems to emanate from the ghettos of Eastern European persecution and knowledge of the Shoah, within the context of a particularly American-Jewish perspective. Other artists should have been included, such as Maurycy Gottlieb, Ben Shahn, The Soyer Brothers and the like, while the mid-century Abstract Expressionists, most notably Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Milton Resnick, Michael Goldberg and others are really ignored. This is odd because abstraction and particularly Abstract Expressionism has always been linked to the concept of the Jewish Abstract Sublime as articulated by Arthur Danto and others. Be that as it may, if the author is tracing a particular route for a figurative Jewish art it is one which takes its origins in figurative Modernism and Postmodernism. It is also a path that not afraid to draw from text, particularly Jewish and/ or Hebrew texts as opposed to the "pure" visuals as articulated by Clement Greenberg in his doctrine of Formalism. In other words it is very significant if R.B Kitaj evokes the Holocaust in his portrait of "The Jewish Rider" (1984-5) with its references to Rembrandt's Polish Rider, (1650's) and its little smokestack symbolizing Auschwitz, then Rosen is implying that Jewish Art or Painting has more in common with the canon of Great Western figurative painters than Abstractionists merely by his scholarly omission. It's an interesting idea, certainly postmodern in its historical overview and frankly to my personal liking, but I don't know if it's really fair. As a critical method to predict future Jewish art, he may have discussed something significant and in that he should be thanked.
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