Looking Jewish

Looking Jewish

Visual Culture and Modern Diaspora
Zemel, Carol
Distribution: World
Publication date: 06/29/2015
Format: Hardback 74 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-00598-4
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Jewish art and visual culture—art made by Jews about Jews—in modern diasporic settings is the subject of Looking Jewish. Carol Zemel focuses on particular artists and cultural figures in interwar Eastern Europe and postwar America who blended Jewishness and mainstream modernism to create a diasporic art, one that transcends dominant national traditions. She begins with a painting by Ken Aptekar entitled Albert: Used to Be Abraham, a double portrait of a man, which serves to illustrate Zemel's conception of the doubleness of Jewish diasporic art. She considers two interwar photographers, Alter Kacyzne and Moshe Vorobeichic; images by the Polish writer Bruno Schulz; the pre- and postwar photographs of Roman Vishniac; the figure of the Jewish mother in postwar popular culture (Molly Goldberg); and works by R. B. Kitaj, Ben Katchor, and Vera Frenkel that explore Jewish identity in a postmodern environment.

Author Bio

Carol Zemel is Professor Emerita of Art History and Visual Culture in the Department of Visual Arts at York University, Toronto.


Adds to a growing literature on a neglected and misunderstood area in Jewish Studies and Art History, and as such, is a contribution to both and to the newer field of Visual Studies. . . . Zemel focuses on an understanding of diaspora that reveals the ways that Jews have negotiated their situation and acculturation through art and visual culture.A series of reflective essays animated by a concern with ‘Jewish modernity’ through the lens of diaspora and assimilation . . . written by an art historian of great visual intelligence in the analysis of images and exceptional clarity in communicating that visual analysis in words.

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Table of Contents

1. Beyond the Ghetto Walls: Shtetl to Nation in Photography by Alter Kacyzne and Moshe Vorobeichic
2. Modern Artist, Modern Jew: Bruno Schulz’s Diasporas
3. Z’chor! Roman Vishniac’s Photo-Eulogy of Eastern European Jews
4. Difference in Diaspora: The Yiddishe Mama, the Jewish Mother, the Jewish Princess and their Men
5. Diasporic Values in Contemporary Art: Kitaj, Katchor, Frenkel

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