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The 613 by Archie Rand

The museum debut and first appearance outside of New York City of Archie Rand’s colossal painting project

July 20–October 22, 2017


Conceptual and retinal, altar and push-cart, lox and bagels. In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘Wow!’ 

Maus creator Art Spiegelman on Archie Rand’s The 613


(San Francisco, CA, June 20, 2017) Starting in 2001, Archie Rand (b. 1949), a painter and muralist from Brooklyn, New York, spent five years creating The 613, a monumental installation of 613 twenty by sixteen inch canvas paintings (plus one additional title painting) arranged in a huge grid comprising 1700 square feet. The massive work reflects on the 613 requirements (mitzvot in Hebrew) for a Jewish person to live a righteous life, as synthesized from various sources in the Hebrew Bible—all rendered in a style described by Peter Steinfels of The New York Times as, “comics and pulp fiction book jackets, a dash of Mad Magazine, a spoonful of Tales from the Crypt, some grotesques, some superheroes, always action, emotion, drama.”

An astronaut drifts above an alien world with a neon pink moon for Exodus 20:2, “To know there is a God.” A female swimmer plunges through bright blue and yellow liquid for Exodus 30:31, “To blend the anointing oil.” The wall of images is held together not only by the style and the palette but also the formal gold edging of each painting with the Hebrew number of the commandment.

Displayed only once on a warehouse wall in New York City for just four hours in 2008, the extremely brief showing attracted one thousand people.

Menachem Wecker, writing about Rand for Jewish Press, stated that, “He has effectively revolutionized the way the rest of us view Jewish art…” Much of Rand’s work involves paintings in reaction to or including essential Jewish texts. The paintings are not literal illustrations, but are emotional and intuitive responses, “that would be counterproductive to even try to explain,” says Rand. In a parallel respect, Rand continues to be deeply aligned with contemporary poetry, having collaborated with many of our major poets such as John Ashbery and Robert Creeley. He sees the cumulative historic gift of Jewish textual scholarship and the poetics of Scripture as his inheritance to interpret and utilize for his own aesthetic practice, thus pushing an unwilling Judaic content into the larger cultural discourse. His use of the 613 is not, therefore, to be understood as an endorsement of its content but as a respectful and deliberate reuse of found material.

There will be a digital kiosk in the middle of the gallery so that visitors can access each of the 613 paintings in close up, along with the admonition translated into English. A film engaged with the Yom Kippur prayer Kol Nidre, directed and animated by Tatiana McCabe and utilizing images from Rand’s The 613, will also be on view in the gallery. At the special invitation of CJM Executive Director Lori Starr, a new painting by Rand, on what some consider to be number 614: remember, is included in the exhibition, displayed separately in the gallery.

“The 613 represents a lifetime’s meditation by Archie Rand about being a painter and a Jewish artist in America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,” says Starr. “We are honored to present the museum debut of this significant work by one of the most important and original mavericks of the art world.”

Organization and Funding

The 613 by Archie Rand is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco and Joan Brookbank Projects in collaboration with the artist Archie Rand.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s presentation is made possible by Shelli Semler and Kyle Bach.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum thanks the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for its lead sponsorship of the Museum's exhibition program.

The 613 by Archie Rand opens to the public on July 20, 2017 in conjunction with two other exhibitions opening the same day, Kutiman: offgrid offline and In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Allison Smith and Christina Zetterlund.

More on Archie Rand

Archie Rand’s work is represented in museums and galleries around the world including in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His graphic works and books are in over 400 public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and The New York Public Library, and are
owned by many universities, among which are Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, and Johns Hopkins.

Rand first exhibited in 1966, at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York at the age of 16. His earliest major works are The Letter Paintings (or The Jazz Paintings) (1968–71), a series incorporating the names of mainly African American musicians, a large selection of which were shown in 1983 at the Carnegie Museum of Art. In 1974, Congregation B’nai Yosef in Brooklyn commissioned Rand to paint murals on the 16,000-square-foot interior surfaces of the synagogue—the only narratively painted synagogue in the world. Recent exhibitions include the 2016 Cleveland State University gallery exhibition of Rand’s Sixty Paintings from the Bible, not seen together since 1992, when the series was completed. For the past thirty-five years, Rand has been making collaborative works with poets including Robert Creeley, John Ashbery, Clark Coolidge, Kenneth Koch, David Plante, John Yau, David Lehman, Jim Cummins, Bill Berkson, Lewis Warsh, Bob Holman, and David Shapiro.

Rand received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in cinegraphics from the Pratt Institute, and, prior to Pratt, studied at the Art Students League of New York. Awarded the Siena Prize by the Italian Academy For Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University in 1995, he received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1999. He was made a Laureate of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, which awarded him the Achievement Medal for Contributions in the Visual Arts in 1999.

In 2015 his series, The 613, was reproduced in a book, The 613 (Blue Rider Press, Penguin Random House), with endorsements by writers and artists including Art Spiegelman, Cynthia Ozick, Ang Lee, John Baldessari, Will Eisner, Jules Feiffer, Malcolm Morley, John Ashbery, and many others.

Currently the Presidential Professor of Art at Brooklyn College, CUNY, where he received the City University Award for Excellence in Creative Achievement, he was previously Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at Columbia University where he received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. His home and studio are located in Brooklyn, New York.




Gallery Chat

Archie Rand on The 613

Friday, Jul 21 12–12:30pm

Free with Museum admission

Artist Archie Rand gives an intimate tour of the exhibition and talks about his influences and inspirations, focusing on a selection of paintings.


Modern Jewish Minimalists: Awesöme Orchestra Performs Steve Reich and Philip Glass

Thursday, Jul 27 6:457:45pm

$10 general (includes Museum admission); Advance tickets required for seating

In conjunction with The 613 by Archie Rand, contemporary classical musicians perform works by twentieth-century Jewish minimalist composers in the gallery. Awesöme Orchestra performs Steve Reich’s “Nagoya Marimbas,” and Philip Glass’ “Cabin in the Rockies,” “To Aunt Rose,” and “Wichita Vortex Sutra.”

Gallery Chat

Owen Smith on Pulp Fiction Illustration

Friday, Aug 4 12:301pm

Free with Museum admission

Award-winning illustrator Owen Smith discusses the tradition of pulp fiction illustration and its visual influence on Archie Rand.

Gallery Chat

Peter Werkhoven of Aedicule on the Ancient Tradition of Gilding

Friday, Aug 18 12:301pm

Free with Museum admission

Master gilder and frame maker Peter Werkhoven discusses the art and craft of gilding and how the technique is referenced in the exhibition.


Modern Jewish Minimalists: The William Winant Percussion Group Performs Steve Reich

Thursday, Sep 7 6:457:45pm

$10 general (includes Museum admission); Advance tickets required for seating

In conjunction with The 613 by Archie Rand, contemporary classical musicians perform works by twentieth-century Jewish minimalist composers in the gallery. Winant Percussion Group performs Steve Reich’s “Pieces of Wood,” “Marimba Phase,” and an excerpt of “Drumming.”

About The Contemporary Jewish Museum

With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase L’Chaim (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.

Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by an Anonymous donor; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; Carbon Five; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Millennium Partners, the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Osterweis Capital Management; The Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund; RayKo; Dorothy R. Saxe; Seiger Family Foundation; and Wendy and Richard Yanowitch.

For more information about The Contemporary Jewish Museum, visit The Museum’s website at

General Information

The Museum is open daily (except Wednesday) 11am–5pm and Thursday, 11am–8pm. Museum admission is $14 for adults, $12 for students and senior citizens with a valid ID, and $5 on Thursdays after 5pm. Youth 18 and under always get in free. For general information on The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the public may visit The Museum’s website at or call 415.655.7800. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission Street (between Third & Fourth streets), San Francisco. 

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