press release

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is proud to present, as its opening exhibition, In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis, the first in a series of exhibitions developed by the CJM that will examine the contemporary relevance of Jewish texts from a variety of artistic, cultural, and literary perspectives.

In the Beginning explores a range of responses to the story of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, from its earliest biblical depictions into the current era. The story of the origins of the universe and the creation of humanity is multi-layered and rich in universal themes related to religion, belief, theism, language, physics, creation, the environment, and ancient literature. Inspired by the rabbinical practice of reinterpreting biblical text so that it remains relevant throughout time and the Museum's mission of looking at tradition through a contemporary lens, these themes are explored through a lively dialogue between historical representations of the creation story and seven major artist projects commissioned by the CJM.

Starting with early depictions of creation in Roman-period mosaics, the exhibition continues into the medieval period with richly illuminated manuscripts alongside rare Jewish representations of creation found in Passover Haggadot from 14th to 15th century Spain. Works from the Renaissance mark the shift to a more humanist approach with Michelangelo-inspired images of a heavenly God creating Adam, followed by atmospheric and dramatic works by Tiepolo, Doré, and Tissot in the 18th and 19th centuries. Continuing into the 20th century, the exhibition explores various abstract and figurative styles used to depict creation, such as the existential questioning of "creation" and "being" found in works by artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Marc Chagall.

The exhibition culminates in the current period with seven major commissions by significant contemporary artists: New York-based filmmaker and media artist, Alan Berliner; Texas-based painter, textile and installation artist, Trenton Doyle Hancock; New York-based media and sound artist, Ben Rubin; British painter and installation artist, Matthew Ritchie, who lives in New York; Indiana-based painter and installation artist, Kay Rosen; Israeli-born new-media artist, Shirley Shor, who lives in New York; and New York-based installation and performance artist, Mierle Ukeles. The commissioned works vary widely in approach and artistic practice and range from sound installation inspired by chanting, to multi-media installation that examines the experience and impact of the formation of the universe. Together, these artists create bold and provocative new works that encourage the rethinking of assumptions and consider new ideas about the creation of our world and humankind.

Contemporary scientific viewpoints about the origins of the universe and creation stories from cultures around the world will also be represented in the exhibition. Through the commissioned artworks and accompanying historical, scientific, and cultural components, In the Beginning is an engaging and dynamic forum for exploration, discussion, and debate about one of the biggest questions of all time.

In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis is supported by a grant from the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.

In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis

mit Alan Berliner, Marc Chagall, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jacob Lawrence, Matthew Ritchie, Kay Rosen, Ben Rubin, Shirley Shor, Mierle Laderman Ukeles