Inquiry 01: Art and Politics is a Human Affair

31 May 2018

Dianna Frid, Estructura del Texto, 2015, Canvas, linen embroidery floss, aluminum, adhesives.
Dianna Frid, Estructura del Texto, 2015, Canvas, linen embroidery floss, aluminum, adhesives.

On the evening of May 23rd, a warm, festive crowd of all ages gathered at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership located just up the street from 1000M, for the opening of Inquiry 01: a group exhibition by the first cohort of the Chicago Jewish Artists Fellowship. Two young boys passed out souvenir-like silver keychains that read “homeseek.” Nelly Agassi, a featured artist and mother to the two boys, trailed closely behind, smiling and explaining that her sons collaborated with her on her work for the show and the concurrent performance exploring wordplay, intimacy and collective identity.

The First Chicago Jewish Artists Fellowship Digs Deep

Organized and co-directed by curators Ionit Behar and Ruslana Lichtzier, the exhibition is comprised of new work by accomplished Chicago-area Jewish artists including Nelly Agassi, Leslie Baum, Iris Bernblum, Dianna Frid, Matthew Girson, Jesse Malmed, Geof Oppenheimer, Roni Packer and Rana Siegel. Leading up to the exhibition, the Fellows met monthly for the past year to share research into their Jewish identities and discuss the complexities of how Jewish heritage intersects with contemporary politics and the broader Chicago community. Installed throughout the gallery space, alongside their new work, are historical items mined from the Spertus’s own archival collection, further linking current discussions to a deeper historical trajectory. Though unified under a cultural, ethnic and potentially religious identity, each artist bears unique experiences and as a result the collection of new work by the Fellows reflects the complicated relationship between what is individual and what is collective.

Omer Calendar, Palestine, late 19th century, paper, wood, paint. Spertus Institute, Chicago.
Omer Calendar, Palestine, late 19th century, paper, wood, paint. Spertus Institute, Chicago.

As Behar and Lichtzier write in their introduction to Inquiry 01’s program, “Being Jewish, like most identities, has no one thing to which one can point to, no definitive appearance, no single definition. If we see this identity as an evolving and multi-faceted construct, one is bound to be faced with more questions and uncertainties than fixed answers.” Through their explication, one begins to understand that there is much to take in and learn, not just for those who share Jewish patronage but for all people invested in culture and politics.

Inquiry 01: Extended Programming

The intellectual and artistic inquiry continues as the Spertus Institute has two artist talks and a participatory performance scheduled as part of continued free programming from the Chicago Jewish Artists Fellowship:

  • On Sunday, June 10, 3-4:30PM, participating artists Nelly Agassi, Dianna Frid, Matthew Girson, Roni Packer and Rana Siegel will talk about their current work and new projects.
  • On Sunday, July 15, 3-4:30PM, participating artists Leslie Baum, Iris Bernblum, Jesse Malmed, and Geoff Oppenheimer will talk about their current work and new projects.
  • On Thursday, July 26, 6-7:30PM, in conjunction with Inquiry 01 and part of an ongoing series, Matthew Girson has organized The Murmur of Democracy, a group performance in which audience members will have the opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of Democracy by reading and listening to letters, testimonies, and speeches of survivors of hatred, bigotry, sexism, and other forms of oppression.
Left to right, Artists Jesse Malmed, Roni Packer, Rana Siegel, and Matthew Girson, Spertus Institute Curator and Co-Director of the Chicago Jewish Artists Fellowship Project Ionit Behar, and artists Iris Bernblum, Nelly Agassi, Leslie Baum, and Diana Frid. Photo by Jordan Avery.
Left to right, Artists Jesse Malmed, Roni Packer, Rana Siegel, and Matthew Girson, Spertus Institute Curator and Co-Director of the Chicago Jewish Artists Fellowship Project Ionit Behar, and artists Iris Bernblum, Nelly Agassi, Leslie Baum, and Diana Frid. Photo by Jordan Avery.

The free exhibition is on display until August 12th. Spertus Institute is open Sundays, 10AM-5PM; Mondays to Wednesdays, 9AM-5PM; Thursdays 9AM-6PM; and Fridays, 9AM-3PM. Spertus Institute is closed on Saturdays and on Jewish and secular holidays.

Program reservations can be made and further information is available online at spertus.edu