The 19 Diaspora Paintings

On View

October 14 – January 5, 2005

Opening Reception

Thursday, October 14, 2004, 6:00 – 8:00 PM


October 14, 2004 at 7 pm

Being Jewish and American: Expressions of Identity in Contemporary Artbr> Archie Rand, artistbr> Matthew Baigell, criticbr> Nancy Schwartzman, writer; editor, Heeb magazine & Associate Program Director, Visual Arts for the National Foundation for Jewish Culturebr> Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Associate Dean, HUC-JIR; moderator

Archie Rand: The Nineteen Diaspora Paintings explores the complexity of moral, spiritual, and physical survival. By depicting biblical personages at decisive moments with a pulp fiction aesthetic, Rand’s works present a new lexicon of contemporary Jewish identity, integrating biblical text and contemporary popular culture. The paintings’ imagery and aesthetics, bridging antiquity and modernity, resonate with contemporary ethical and intellectual dilemmas as they depict the rise of Israel, its dissolution, exile, and the eternal hope for redemption.

Curator Laura Kruger, notes, “Rand creates modern, visual parables by juxtaposing heroic scale figures, skewed and off balance, with direct quotations from biblical texts. The agitated energy ignites each scene and propels the action into our immediate time frame. Never underestimating his audience, Rand anticipates that the viewer will grapple with these intellectual issues and he provides provocative material matching the premise of the text.”

Rand’s paintings depict personages, ranging from Esau, Abraham, Isaac, and Samson to King David and the prophets Jeremiah, and Isaiah, among others, confronting a dramatic moment that alters the course of history. Eve’s exile from Eden, Cain apprehended at the murder scene, Solomon as a construction worker building the Temple, Elijah rising to heaven in a space ship — the humor and drama of human frailty are presented in the guise of comic book imagery, including prehistoric beasts, Roman solders, Native Americans, film noir heroes, and science fiction explorers. Rand invites the viewer to wrestle with the psychological, moral, and political quandaries of the distant past, as described in the original biblical text inscriptions but depicted in the popular visual vocabulary of 20th and 21st century experience.

Additional layers of meaning are extracted by the series’ correspondence to the benedictions of the Amidah prayer, the core element of each of the prescribed daily services in Judaism. Also known as Hatefilah (The Prayer), it is recited individually and silently while standing and facing Jerusalem, and repeated by a reader when there is a congregational quorum of 10 adults present. Throughout this prayer, the worshiper addresses God directly. This series of benedictions arose during the Second Temple period and became the general custom after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, and the Israelites’ dispersion into the diaspora. The 18 prayers extol God’s holiness and deeds, petition God to grant wisdom and understanding, ask for repentance and redemption, supplicate for the fertility of the earth, beseeche for the ingathering of exiles, appeal for justice and destruction of enemies, ask for mercy for the righteous, solicit the rebuilding of Jerusalem, seek the reestablishment of the kingdom of David, express a plea to accept prayers and reinstate Temple worship, and offer thanks for God’s mercies. The concluding 19th blessing is a petition for peace.

In his homage to the pioneering aesthetic of the comic book founders, many of whom were Jewish, Rand has sought alternative Jewish sources to those conveying conventional Yiddish nostalgia, eschewing a predictable iconography. The graphic inclusion of Hebrew text restrains the assimilation of these images into a completely secular context and, in Rand’s view, “reallocates Hebrew to those who require identification, from both within and outside of Judaism, without the pressure of conscription to the whole nine yards.” The result is a series of works that startle, challenge, disturb, and assert that one can be both universal and particular, and that a contemporary artist can speak authentically in an American and Jewish voice.

For well over three decades Archie Rand has been considered one of America’s foremost painters, a technical and iconographic innovator, and a leading master of Judaic iconography. He has had over 100 solo exhibitions and his work is represented in many museum collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In 1999 Rand received the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and was made a Laureate of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, which awarded him the prestigious medal for Contributions to the Visual Arts. Among his numerous honors are The National Endowment for the Arts Grant, The New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, the SECCA Award in the Visual Arts, the Columbia University Presidential Award for Excellence, Sienna Prize and the Engelhard Foundation Grant.


Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum One West 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street), Manhattan

Museum Hours

Mondays- Thursdays, 9 am – 5 pm; Fridays, 9 am – 3 pm; Selected Sun., 10 am – 2 pm, Oct. 17; Nov. 7, 21; Dec. 5, 19; Jan. 9,

Group tours, and additional information

(212) 824-2205;

Catalog with 19 color illustrations, essays by Matthew Baigell, Shirley Idelson, and Laura Kruger, and edited by Jean Bloch Rosensaft, available upon request. Photographs of works available upon request: 212-824-2205