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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Some of the Jewish American Community will be having a vigil outside the UN building in New York, Monday, September 22, 2008, to protest the fact that the UN will be allowing Iran’s prime Minister Ahmedi-Nejad (Ahmedinejad), a self declared enemy of the Jewish people of Israel, and Holocaust denier, to come again to New York, this for the third time, in order to spew his venom and be feted by some that probably are like-minded, even though less expressive.

By coincidence, September 18th, the Center for Jewish History in New York City and the Yeshiva University Museum (YUM), had the unveiling reception of several exhibits that tie into one larger scope that deals with the resilience of the Jewish people.

Though having had to move around, persecuted in many places, the Jews enriched every place where they landed. In effect they graced every host, and Germany and Austria of today are not afraid to recognize the fact that the Jews were a very strong component of their culture, and are trying to make amends for what their country-people did to the Jews during the Holocaust years, and well ahead in historic times.

One of the exhibits deals with the German town Erfurt. In 1349, because of the Plague – The Black Death – the ignorant locals, that had no inkling about needs of hygiene, accused the Jews living among them as the cause for the Plague – this is clearly not much different from Ahmedi-Nejad’s hammering on the Jews of Israel as a reason for the backwardness of Muslim populations in the Middle East – that got stuck in a Medieval frame of mind and made not much real progress since. One of the local rich Jews hid a treasure that was found recently and these unique objects of art have been brought for display in New York before getting a permanent home in a new Museum in Erfurt.

Such museums exist in many old towns in Germany, and I was privileged visiting the city of Emden where the city library displays an important collection of works by Jewish philosopher Rabbi Jacob Ben-Zwi (Emden) – who originated the Jawetz family name, and brought fame to the city of Embden. It is the Germans of today in Emden, who care for that collection and are proud of that heritage, similarly with the Erfurt of today.

The opening of the shows on September 18th had many speakers. Considering the mix of artists and the Medieval artifacts from Erfurt, the speakers also represented Germany, Austria, Israel, and the New York museum. Obviously, there were cultural representatives from the various nationalities. But most interesting, and to the point, I found Dr. Andreas Stadler, the new Director of the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, who said that what makes him feel most at home in New York is the Jewish culture that he was familiar with back in his home in Vienna. Mind you, Andreas, to the best of my knowledge is not of Jewish heritage, but he was brought up seemingly with the understanding that it is hard to see Viennese culture without its Jewish elements. So Hitler did not succeed after all.

Andreas Stadler came because of the painter Soshana and explained her life as a struggle of her position of a woman painter. 50 years of painting she fought for this recognition, and her son, Amos Schueller pointed out that she does this still, even though she cannot travel anymore. Sylvia Herschkowitz, the Director of the Museum said about Soshana that she wandered the World searching for her Jewish soul.

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Another exhibit Was “The Suitcase Man” – Sculptures by Uri Dushi. He lives in Israel and his family are Holocaust survivors. He is now a very interesting exponent of creative Israel, and having looked over his career – I was glad seeing that among the many places he exhibited also in Graz – Austria, Bad Kissingen – Germany, Lodz – Poland,   Hag – The Netherlands. and at my favorite place in Moscow – at the Helicon Opera.

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Uri Dushi’s initial entrance into the world of plastic art was with his photomontage works. About 15 years ago Dushy, who was up until then engaged in the field of music, began creating sizable, brightly colored paintings into which he incorporated dozens of personal photographs’ fragments. The works were overwhelming in their direct, forceful and dynamic execution, as well as the straightforward naivete that seemed to burst from the heart of the artist.

Dushy was imbued with the artistic courage to combine photographs of industrial sites that remained vacant and mute prior to their demolition, which he decided to document in his drawings, with dozens of apocalyptic industrial landscapes photographed by him. He then sank the photos in reservoirs of oil paint, combining and assimilating the one into the other, finally forming one artistic entity, amazing in its visual effect. His work has somewhat baffled the viewers, leading to more than one vague response from professionals in the field, who could not precisely categorize this new art.

The first exhibit was displayed in a commercial industrial space in southern Tel Aviv. Mobile bulbs positioned on lighting poles illuminated the works. The event itself, this ‘other’ and different gallery marked a breakthrough in a career that was predefined by ‘other’ criteria, directed towards the attention of the widest range of audiences possible, seeking to bedisplayed to all people, not solely for those who are ‘professionally qualified’ to understand art. Hanna Arendt, in  Herbert Reed’s  â€˜The History of Modern Painting’  comments on this matter in the above mentioned book: ‘The artist’s substantial worldliness might not change even if “objectless art” replaces the description of things. The artist, be he a painter, a poet or a musician, creates worldly objects and this realization has nothing in common with the expressionistic activity, which is dubious and at any rate certainly isn’t art. The term “expressionist art” consists of two contradicting words, which can not be said regarding the term “abstract art”.’ This may be the place to note the liberty that Uri Dushy has taken upon himself to individually represent the meaning of his art, to invent the genres in which he desires to create, and through his creative eyeglasses to project outwards to us the viewers his impression, created anew in the process of building his works.

Curator Doron Polak writes: “Few are the practicing artists possessing the broad and varied talents, ranging over manifold fields both different and complementary, such as Uri Dushy. It is difficult to find artists having such a command of painting and photography, music and composition, video art and massive industrial sculpturing. His unreserved mastery of these art forms, and moreover, his original capability of integrating them into a complete unit – result in a creative path that is both different and unique.

Uri Dushy’s work does not confine itself to the limits of his private studio, but rather exits into the public realm – into open sites frequented by bypassers, and members of the community, who are not necessarily familiar with museums and galleries. His art is favorably accepted both in official art institutes such as galleries and art centers in which he is active, as well as in business and industrial sites, through dozens of public locations where his works are permanently displayed. The combination of styles which characterize his works, usually merging and thus naturally constructing his work process, mark his exceptional course in the labyrinth of his highly personal art.”

As we have a particular idea in mind for this article, we will not delve further – but please look up –  www.du-art.com/about.html

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SOSHANA is the artist’ name of Susanne Schuller-Afroyim. Born August 25, 1927 in Vienna, to a solid middle-class Jewish family, Susanne Schuller had all the traumatic experiences of the Vienna of the 1930s. After the Nazi “Anschluss, her family escaped to London where she started to study painting, then in 1941 the family ended up in new York – a direct and somewhat fortunate example of the Suit-Case People. Eventually she went to study with the Jewish painter Beys Afroim (the name meaning in Jidish “the house of Ephraim) in Chicago and they married in 1945. Her only son, called Amos Shueller, was born in Chicago and he is the one who takes care now of her rich oeuvre.

Amos Schueller was the one to chaperone her collection of paintings to the New York exhibition, and spoke at the opening, as Soshana, who lives now in Vienna, does not travel anymore.

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The artists name Soshana is the Hebrew form of Susanne, and it means the flower lily-of-the-valley which from Hebrew is usually transliterated as Shoshana – so her spelling is actually a transliteration from Jidish – the language closer to her native German. Soshana says about her work that “it is suffering that helps you grow and develop, the struggle and conflict in life. Even the plants seem to struggle for light and space …I believe in a greater spirit of nature, from which each person is a part, here to play his role in life.”

Shoshana, rather then Susanne, pushed her personality through life by going many places – and all this reflects in her paintings. After her first major exhibition in 1948 in Havana, she moved to Paris, the avant-garde art center at that time. She and Beys Afroim lived in Israel at the beginning of the 50s, in India and places in Japan and China later 50s –   where she studied abstract art and calligraphy as well as Eastern philosophy and religion.

She then traveled to South America and Africa in 1958-59, where among others she met and painted Dr. Albert Schweitzer. She and Afroim painted many well known personalities including Arnold Schoenberg, Thomas Mann, Franz Werfel, Leon Feuchtwanger, Hans Eisler, Otto Klamperer, Pablo Picasso. Also, she was painted by Picasso and Giacometti – Picasso actually made her the special compliment that she had unusual talent. She used in Paris the old studio where Gauguin used to work. Others in whose company they were in Paris included Brancusi, Chagall, and Sartre – then in 1953 she exhibited in the well known gallery of Max Bollag in Zurich.

When the modern art scene relocated from Paris to New York, they went first to Mexico, back to Israel, and eventually back to New York in 1974. She was called the “Cassandra of the Canvas.” A Melancholic introvert that created a large body of work that reflects her reaction to traumatic events she experienced. Her paintings, among othr things, deal with subjects of war – the 9/11 event in New York, the two wars in Iraq, the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, Gandhi’s death, and the Holocaust.

Soshana returned to Vienna in 1985 and she was honored by the Austrian Government with a Special Postal Stamp.

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Workers in a New York Sweatshop (1944), Oil on Canvas, 40 cm X 48 cm, 15.79″ X 16.72″

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The Burning Bush.

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Mauthausen (1988) – (A Nazi Labor and Extermination Camp in Austria) – Oil on Canvas, 70cm X 90 cm, 27.30″ X 35.10″

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Stern was born in Essen, in the industrial Ruhr Region, Germany, in 1956 and attended schools in Dortmund and Dusseldorf. He started out as a painter of outdoor signs and advertisements, and when turning to art started to refer to himself as an “action painter” in the legacy of New York School painters Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. When he arrived in New York he was fascinated by the disorientation of the New York streetscape and its skyscrapers. He painted the movement of people in the streets and scenes in subways. After 9/11 he focused his attention on a series he titled “The Gatherings” which reflect on the collective mourning of the city following that tragedy.

His paintings hang in many museums around the world, including the Metropolitan museum of Art in New York. Interestingly – also in the US Embassy in Vienna. He returned many times to Germany to show his work.

In 2010, Essen will be the EU cultural capital, in recognition of the tremendous changes of the region from its original industrial, steel and coal, nature. and David Stern will surely be represented there as well.

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The Yeshiva University Museum was started 35 years ago. The Center in its location on West 16th Street in Manhattan, is a later creation.

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Further works by Soshana – our selection here deals with horrors of war – New York 9/11, Iraq (the first Gulf War), Kosovo and Vietnam:

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