The Gallery and the Archive: Contemporary Artists Work with The Magnes Collection

Lecture | February 21 | 5:30-7 p.m. |  Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life (2121 Allston Way)

 Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

Join David Wilson, Greg Niemeyer and Nicki Green, three contemporary artists who, in recent years, have interacted with The Magnes Collection and contributed to exhibitions that intersect new works with art and artifacts from the collection itself, in a conversation about art, creativity, archives, and memory, moderated by Francesco Spagnolo.

David Wilson, an artist based in Oakland, worked for several months in the deep storage of The Magnes, exploring, researching, looking at, and drawing objects from the four corners of the world. Each drawing session culminated in a conversation with Francesco Spagnolo, who expanded on and played with the origins and meanings of the objects he portrayed. The results of their collaboration animated "mima‘amaqim. from the depths of collections," an exhibition presented at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in 2015.

Greg Niemeyer, Professor of New Media in Art Practice at UC Berkeley, created "Night Vision" for the exhibition, "The Power of Attention", presented at The Magnes in 2017. The work’s computer-generated image traces the "menorah" anchored in the night vision of prophet Zechariah. Its shape is constantly redrawn in a sea of GIF animations from the Internet Archive, layering, moving, and blurring them to suggest strata of digital memory. Above these layers, the program draws and redraws the basic shape of the "menorah", the pipes and the two olive trees from Zechariah’s vision. The colors change from cycle to cycle and from day to day. The animations interweave the noise of contemporary with the pure spiritual form of the menorah, and invite us to answer the same question that Zechariah was asked: “What seest thou?”

Nicki Green, a Graduate Student in the UC Berkeley Department of Art Practice, was invited by Francesco Spagnolo, to create a new work in response to the ritual objects in the new exhibition, "The Karaite Canon." This resulted in Ritual Buttons, reflecting the particularity of Karaite prayer shawls and ritual fringes (Heb. tzitzit). A signed and numbered 18-piece limited artist edition of four ceramic button sets with “tzitzitbags,” this new work interrogates ritual practice and the possibility to innovate within a tradition.The project seeks to identify that even in the most direct and fundamental interpretation of text, one is always adapting and filtering law and practice through the lens of one's body, offering a place for expansiveness and innovation.

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