EVIL: A Matter of Intent

Grace Graupe-Pillard, Boy with a Gun series, pastel on cut-out canvas, 1987-1992

On View: September 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016
Opening Reception: Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 5:30-7:30 pm, with a program at 6:30 pm

Evil is not a cosmic accident. It does not just happen. Natural disasters happen. Disease, drought, accidents, and epidemics happen. Evil is the conscious act of an individual or group committing an inhumanity to another individual or group in an effort to achieve a personal goal. Evil is not an idea or a concept; it is a deliberate action or inaction. Evil is defined as a selfish act or behavior with the intent to benefit one’s self or one’s interests irrespective of harm to others and without responsibility and remorse.

The Hebrew Bible and rabbinic tradition view human beings as born with an inclination to evil, yetzer hara, spurred by sexual impulses and the desire to acquire material goods. In fact, these acts are necessary to procreate and build stable societies. If unrestrained, these natural impulses can become excessive and potentially evil. The inclination to good acts (yetzer hatov) occurs with the tension between physical and intellectual development, to reason and choose. It is an ongoing struggle in which Jews cannot and should not be passive. Jews perceive the existence of an active struggle against evil as a primary task of humanity.

The artists included in this exhibition address with clarity and passion the many faces of inhumanity. History is replete with genocides: the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, Bosnia, Rawanda, Darfar, Cambodia, the Trail of Tears, to name recent atrocities. Pogroms, murder, rape, sex slavery, domestic abuse, trafficking in drugs, enslavement, lynchings, terrorist acts, destruction of knowledge and culture, obliteration of cultural heritage, kidnapping, child abuse, deliberate poisoning of water and earth are rampant and unceasing. Evil is fueled by indifference, intimidation, gossip, lying, bullying, denigration. It is achieved through drastic physical action, inflicting pain, injury, starvation, denial of education. The artists in this presentation, using an international visual language, challenge the concept of heroes and villains. Who is the hero? Who is the tyrant? Are the seeds of evil latent in a hero?

Is overcoming evil an active or passive process? Are we “delivered from evil” by a higher power? Must individuals in any society engage in a direct, adversarial struggle to quell wrong and establish right?

Evil is the violation of our common humanity. Human morality requires direct action against evil. Can we develop a society able to embrace selfless acts and behavior to benefit others irrespective of harm to one s person or interests?  The Peace Corps, Medecins sans Frontieres, Southern Poverty Law Center, Habitat for the Humanity, Meals on Wheels, amongst many others, strive to defeat evil.

The artists in this exhibition as do many of us, have a vision of how to proceed. Less rhetoric. More action. It is up to each and every one of us to wage war on evil.

Laura Kruger, Curator
Rose Starr, Research Coordinator

View the Catalog >

Artists include:
Andi Arnowitz · Helene Aylon · Debra Band · Harriet Estel Berman · Riva Bell · Leon Bibel · Andres Borocz · Beverly Brodsky · Linda Caspe · Judy Chicago · Dorit Dotan · Rosalyn A. Engelman · Larry S. Frankel · Tommy Gelb · Linda Gissen · Grace Graupe-Pillard · Barbara Green · Debbie Teicholz Guedalia · Karen Gunderson · Carol Hamoy · Nathan Hilu · Tamar Hirschl · Judith Glickman Lauder · John Lawson · Margalit Mannor · Elizabeth Langer · Reuben Malayn · Paul Margolis · Richard McBee · Meadow · Leonard Meiselman · Rabbi Linda Motzkin · David Newman · Hedy Pagremanski · Mark Podwal · Archie Rand · Faith Ringold · Trix Rosen · Marilyn Rosenberg · Joachim Schmid · William Sharp · Linda Soberman · Arthur Szyk · David Wander · Grace Bakst Wapner · Paul Weissman

Location:
One West Fourth Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street), New York

Hours:
Monday-Thursday, 9am-5pm
Friday, 9am-3pm
Select Saturdays, 10am-2pm (call for Saturday openings)

Admission:
Free. Photo ID required.

Group Tours & Information:
museumnyc@huc.edu or (212) 824-2218

Presented by the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture, with the support of George, z”l, and Mildred Weissman.