The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation Exhibition Launches New Spertus Museum

January 10, 2008 5:19:32 PM PST
First in a Series of Changing Exhibitions Explores Complex Notions of Jewishness and Identity in American Culture Spertus Museum will reopen in the new state-of-the-art Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies facility at 610 S. Michigan Avenue with a dynamic program of changing exhibitions, artist commissions, and a core collection display consisting of contemporary art, Judaica, and historical objects and artifacts. The new programming at Spertus Museum invites visitors to question and explore diverse historical and modern Jewish identities, the reciprocal effect between Jewish and broader culture, and the relationship between past and present.

The inaugural exhibition in the 10th-floor changing exhibitions gallery is The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation, which presents the work of 16 contemporary American Jewish artists and serves as a platform for raising important questions about ethnic, cultural, and religious identity in the United States today. The New Authentics opens to the public concurrent with the opening of the new Spertus facility on November 30, 2007, and runs through April 13, 2008. A special event to celebrate the grand opening of the museum's exhibitions will take place on Saturday, December 1, from 7 to 9 pm.

The New Authentics exhibition focuses on artists of a certain generation (most born in the 1960s and 1970s) who have varying degrees of Jewish education and affiliation and are culturally diverse, yet all of them have been shaped in some way by their Jewish backgrounds. Typical of their generation, most do not define themselves as Jews first and foremost, and many do not prominently assert their Jewish identity in all of their work, yet some of their concerns and fixations can be understood through their art.

The term post-Jewish has been adopted to describe this generation and its collective attitude. It draws on related concepts such as postethnicity, postmodernism, and post-black. In a postethnic world, one that, using historian David A. Hollinger's words, "promotes multiple identities, emphasizes the dynamic and changing character of many groups and is responsive to the potential for creating new cultural combinations," the notion of an authentic identity is idiosyncratic and negotiable. Post-Jewish, as used here, does not imply "after Jewish," but emphasizes Hybridity and challenges assumed cultural categories and fixed definitions.

"The artists in The New Authentics represent 21st-century American Jews," said Staci Boris, Spertus Museum Senior Curator and curator of the exhibition. "No longer identifying as victims or 'others,' the post-Jewish generation focuses on self-definition and on balancing lived experience with heritage in their intellectual, artistic, and daily practice. References to these endeavors can be found in their art, yet in most cases, Jewishness is more of a question of perspective, rather than a subject in and of itself."

The New Authentics artists are: David Altmejd (New York, NY, and London), Cheselyn Amato (Davis, CA), Johanna Bresnick (New Haven, CT), Shoshana Dentz (New York, NY), Lilah Freedland (New York, NY), Matthew Girson (Oak Park, IL), Karl Haendel (Los Angeles, CA), Laura Kina (Chicago, IL), Fawn Krieger (New York, NY), Jin Meyerson (New York, NY, and Paris), Mindy Rose Schwartz (Chicago, IL), Collier Schorr (New York, NY), Ludwig Schwarz (Dallas, TX), Joel Tauber (Los Angeles, CA), Shoshanna Weinberger (Newark, NJ), and Jennifer Zackin (New York, NY, and Waterbury, CT).

Staci Boris joined the Spertus Museum staff in 2004 following her position as Associate Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. A member of the MCA's curatorial department for 13 years, Boris organized a number of noteworthy exhibitions including the first U.S. retrospective of South African artist William Kentridge (2001-2002) and the first survey exhibition of works by American painter John Currin (2003-2004). Along with coordinating numerous touring exhibitions at the MCA, including Chuck Close, Mies in America, and Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, Boris served as the project director of 12 x 12: New Artists/New Work, the MCA's ongoing series of monthly exhibitions by emerging Chicago artists. At Spertus, she curated The Language Barrier, a highly visible series of site-specific artist commissions by Kay Rosen, Kendell Geers, and Mel Bochner, on the construction barricade of the new Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies facility.

The New Authentics exhibition catalog will be available at the Spertus Shop (onsite and online) beginning November 30 for $29.99. The 144-page fully illustrated publication includes an overview essay by exhibition curator Staci Boris, a newly commissioned essay about American Jewish identity by cultural historian Stephen J. Whitfield, and an excerpt from The History of Love by novelist Nicole Krauss. In addition, a substantial part of the catalog is devoted to the individual artists: each is treated in depth in a lavishly illustrated section that includes new essays by Sarah Giller Nelson and Lori Waxman.

Following Spertus Museum's presentation, The New Authentics exhibition will travel to The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, where it will be on view from May 9 - July 27, 2008.

In conjunction with The New Authentics exhibition, Spertus Museum has planned the following public programs:

Exhibition Opening (7-9 pm)
Heeb Storytelling (9-11 pm)
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Following the opening reception of Spertus Museum's inaugural exhibitions, Spertus Museum, in cooperation with Heeb magazine, presents a rare Chicago appearance of the critically acclaimed Heeb Storytelling series. Part cabaret, part stand up, part literary event, this program produced especially for Spertus with award-winning humorist Andy Borowitz (who regularly appears on CNN's American Morning and NPR's Weekend Edition). The line-up of national and local performers includes Kumail Nanjiani, Hannibal, Brute Force and Daughter of Force, and Achy Obejas. Tickets for the Heeb Storytelling event are $12, $10 for Spertus members.

David A. Hollinger Lecture
Thursday, March 6, 2008 - 6 pm

On March 6, 2008, Spertus Museum hosts a lecture by one of the United States' foremost intellectual historians, David A. Hollinger. Author of several books, including Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism, and Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley, Hollinger will discuss the postethnic age, with a special emphasis on the post-Jewish condition.

Panel Discussion
Re-envisioning Difference: Notes from the Forefront of Culturally-Specific Museums
Thursday, April 10, 2008 - 6 pm

On April 10, 2008, Spertus Museum presents the panel discussion Re-envisioning Difference: Notes from the Forefront of Culturally-Specific Museums. Participants include Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs, El Museo del Barrio, New York; Melissa Chiu, Director of Asia Society Museum, New York; Franklin Sirmans, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Menil Collection, Houston; and Rhoda Rosen, Director of Spertus Museum, Chicago; with moderator Robin Cembalest, executive editor of ARTnews.

Spertus Museum Hours beginning November 30, 2007
Sunday-Wednesday 10 am - 6 pm
Thursday 10 am - 7 pm
Friday 10 am - 3 pm
Spertus is closed Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath

Spertus Museum Admission beginning November 30, 2007

$7, $5 for students and seniors, children under 5 free, free museum admission for Spertus members.

Free museum admission for everyone every Tuesday from 10 am-12 noon and every Thursday from 3-7 pm.

The new Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue, just north of the former Spertus location. Designed by the award-winning, Chicago-based firm of Krueck & Sexton Architects, the new facility will allow Spertus to better serve its longtime students and visitors, and to meet the needs of new audiences with expanded programming. In addition to the expanded exhibition space for Spertus Museum, the new facility will contain classroom and library space for Spertus College and the Asher Library, as well as a state-of-the-art theater for live performance and film, space for community events and celebrations, a Children's Center designed with Redmoon Theater Artistic Director Jim Lasko and Odile Compagnon, an expanded gift shop, and the kosher Spertus Café by Wolfgang Puck.

For more information, please visit

Spertus invites people of all ages and backgrounds to explore the multifaceted Jewish experience. Through its innovative public programming, exhibitions, collections, research facilities and degree programs, Spertus inspires learning, serves diverse communities and fosters understanding, for Jews and people of all faiths, locally, regionally and around the world.

Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is a partner in serving the community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

Spertus exhibitions are made possible, in part, by a CityArts Program 4 Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Joyce and Avrum Gray and their family, The Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation, The Harry and Sadie Lasky Foundation, The Francis L. Lederer Foundation, the Benjamin J. Rosenthal Foundation, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Bernard & Rochelle Zell Holocaust Center, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.


Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour Performs U.S. Debut at Spertus
New Yorker Critic Paul Goldberger Lectures on Contemporary Jewish Architecture
Renowned Israeli Photojournalist David Rubinger Discusses His Incredible Career

(CHICAGO) From provocative films to popular family entertainment, from acclaimed critics to controversial comedians, Chicago's Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is proud to present a diverse series of exciting new programming for a wide range of audiences in its new facility at 610 S. Michigan Avenue. With events deliberately varied in subject matter and tone, Spertus aims to attract visitors of all backgrounds to explore the Jewish ? and the human ? experience.

An initial list of upcoming offerings includes:

The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour ? January 12

The internationally acclaimed Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour comes to Spertus for its U.S. premiere, one night only, Saturday, January 12 at 7:30 pm. This standup comedy troupe has brought audiences around the world to their feet as they encourage laughter about Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, and Jewish life. Founded by Charley Warady, an Israeli, and Ray Hanania, a Chicago-based Palestinian, the group also includes veteran standup comedians Aaron Freeman of Chicago, and Yisrael Campbell of West Jerusalem. About their work, Ray Hanania, one of the most-written and talked about comedians today, says, "if we can laugh together, we can live together." Tickets are $35, $30, and $25, and advance reservations are strongly recommended.

Spertus Jewish Book Club ? season begins January 23

The 2008 season of the Spertus Jewish Book Club begins with a lunchtime discussion of Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands by Robert Satloff, Wednesday, January 23, from 12 noon to

1 pm. Each session of the Jewish Book Club focuses on a provocative book led by an expert in the book's subject. This compelling book details the roles Arabs played in assisting and resisting the Third Reich, Italian Fascism, the Vichy government, and the expansion of the Final Solution into their countries. Dr. Elliot Lefkovitz, Spertus Professor of Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, leads the discussion. Tickets are $25 ($20 for Spertus members) and include a kosher lunch.

Paul Goldberger Lecture ? January 27

Paul Goldberger, the award-winning architecture critic for the New Yorker, lectures at Spertus on Contemporary Jewish Architecture, Sunday, January 27 at 4 pm. Mr. Goldberger comes to Chicago as the inaugural Spertus Museum Weil Fellow. His lecture is held in conjunction with Spertus Museum's hosting of the 2007 Council of American Jewish Museums Conference. Goldberg holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at the New School in Ne w York, and is the author of Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York. He began his career at The New York Times, where in 1984 his architecture criticism was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, the highest award in journalism. Tickets are $30 ($25 for Spertus members).

David Rubinger Lecture ? February 3

Renowned photojournalist David Rubinger shares stories from his recently released autobiography, Israel through My Lens, Sunday, February 3 at 2 pm, as part of the Spertus recognition of Israel's 60th anniversary. Rubinger and his coauthor, Ruth Corman, will discuss Rubinger's gripping life story, which in many ways reflects the 60-year history of Israel that he has recorded with his camera, first for the Israeli media and later as a correspondent for Time and Life. Rubinger has reported on nearly every important event in his country's history, from the Suez Crisis to the Intifadas. A winner of the Israel Prize for services to the media and a fixture on the masthead of Time magazine, he is the only photographer whose work is on permanent display at the Knesset. Rubinger will share anecdotes of the people he photographed and tell the stories behind his most well known pictures. Tickets are $20, $15 for Spertus members, and $10 for students. A book signing follows the lecture.

Vanessa Hidary: The Hebrew Mamita ? February 9

Actress, poet, and playwright Vanessa Hidary (also known as the Hebrew Mamita) presents an evening of spoken word and short stories, Saturday, February 9, beginning at 7:30 pm. Hidary's performance focuses on her experiences as a Jewish girl growing up on Manhattan's culturally diverse Upper West Side. Her experiences as a Sephardic Jew with friends of many ethnic and religious backgrounds inspired her to write her first solo show, Culture Bandit, chronicling her coming of age during the golden age of hip-hop and her dedication to fostering friendship between all people. Culture Bandit was originally produced by LAByrinth Theatre Company (with artistic directors Phillip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz). It has since played at festivals around the country and at the Comedy Central Stage in Los Angeles. Hidary has been featured in numerous publications and has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam. She is working on her first novel, Bodega Girl. All seats are $20.

Cut: Film Screening and Discussion ? February 10 A screening of the provocative film Cut, addressing contemporary issues raised by the ancient tradition of circumcision, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker and a fascinating panel of experts, will be held Sunday, February 10 at 2 pm. Through the lens of the ancient Jewish ritual of male circumcision, Cut asks what happens when Jewish tradition collides with modern values of autonomy and individuality. Using the latest in scientific research, as well as conversations with rabbis, historians, and activities, Cut asks difficult questions and provides a rare emotional and intellectual experience. About his film, producer/director Eli Ungar-Sargon said, "My intention with this film was to educate, enlighten, entertain, and ultimately raise the level of discourse on an important, but rarely discussed topic. The film is really about what happens when different values systems come into conflict. What happens when one's religious tradition tells one to do something that is ethically problematic?" Following the screening, an esteemed panel will take on its provocative topic, with panelists Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation, filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon, and pediatrician and mohel Dr. William H. Barrows.This program is free, but reservations are recommended.

The Ideology and Ethics of War Mini-Course ? February 18-21

With content ripped straight from today's headlines, Spertus will offer a mini-course called The Ideology and Ethics of War in Jewish Law and Lore, Monday-Thursday, February 18-21, from 12 noon to 1:30 pm each day. This course explores militaristic and pacifist ideologies in Jewish sources, and analyzes the ways modern religious authorities have used these sources in relation to the wars of the State of Israel. A number of ethical dilemmas will be discussed including the bombing of areas in which it is suspected civilians are harboring terrorists, pre-emptive strikes, and the balance between human rights and security concerns. This mini-course is taught by visiting scholar Dr. Daniel Sinclair, who holds a PhD in Law from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Recipient of the prestigious Jacob Herzog Memorial Prize in Jewish Law, Dr. Sinclair is an ordained rabbi who also holds appointments at Rishon Lezion in Israel and at Fordham University Law School. The mini-course is $150 ($125 for Spertus members) and advance registration is requested.

Annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture ? February 26

Spertus hosts the 12th Annual Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Jerusalem Lecture, an annual program that commemorates Cardinal Bernardin's 1995 visit to Israel and continues the dialogue he advocated between Jews and Catholics on theological issues affecting their relationship, Tuesday, February 26 at 7 pm. This year's lecture, Reflections on Jewish-Catholic Relations: Past, Present and Future, will be delivered by Dr. Eugene Fisher, Associate Director Emeritus of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dr. Eugene Fisher has lectured throughout the United States, Israel, Canada, Europe, Latin American, and Australia. Since 1981, he has chaired the National Workshops for Christian-Jewish Relations, considered to be the premiere ongoing such dialogue to involve both lay and professional participants in the world today. In 1985, Dr. Fisher was appointed by Pope John Paul II to be Consultor to the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, a position he still holds, having received his fifth quinquennial appointment in 2003. This program is co-sponsored as a partnership of Spertus Institute, the Archdiocese of Chicago, the American Jewish Committee, the Chicago Board of Rabbis, and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. The program is free but reservations are required.

For program reservations, tickets, and information, call 312.322.1773 or visit

Spertus invites people of all ages and backgrounds to explore the multi-faceted Jewish experience. Through its innovative programming, exhibitions, collections, research facilities and degree programs, Spertus inspires learning, serves diverse communities and fosters understanding for Jews and people of all faiths, locally, regionally and around the world.

Spertus Institute is a partner in serving the community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation.