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In that Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art: Kota Ezawa and James Kirby Rogers

An ancient Talmudic study principle reinterpreted by artist Kota Ezawa in collaboration with contemporary dancer James Kirby Rogers.
July 28, 2016–June 20, 2017
Opening Reception: July 28, 2016; 5–8pm with talk at 6:30pm
Artist Talk: August 18, 2016; 6–6:30pm


(San Francisco, CA, June 1, 2016) Dialogue has always been an integral part of learning in traditional Jewish contexts. The Talmud states, “Just as in the case of iron, when one implement sharpens another, so too do two scholars sharpen each other.”

The Contemporary Jewish Museum repurposes the centuries-old practice of havruta—the study of religious texts by people in pairs—for the contemporary art community. An ongoing exhibition series, In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art, brings individual Bay Area artists together with a scholar, scientist, writer, or other thinker of his or her choice for a ten-week fellowship in creativity. The resulting collaborations will be presented in The Museum’s Sala Webb Education Center, and visitors can also follow the collaborative process on The Museum’s blog (, where artists will post reflections, thoughts, images, and more at intervals during the development of the work.

The current installation features the work of Bay Area-based artist Kota Ezawa in collaboration with San Francisco native and contemporary dancer, currently a member of The Houston Ballet II, James Kirby Rogers. Ezawa and Rogers are creating Much Ado About Nothing, a three-channel video animation based on Rogers’ choreography, which he performed in front of Ezawa’s camera.

In his practice, Ezawa often reworks images from popular culture, film, and art history, stripping them down to their core elements. His simplified versions remain easily recognizable and potent, maintaining a keen awareness of how images shape our experience and memory of events. For Much Ado About Nothing, Ezawa removes Rogers’ movements from any larger context and repeats them on multiple screens, making the choreography, initially unknown to the viewer, at once familiar and mechanical. As a synthesis of two art forms, the piece blurs the line between human movement and the imaginative power of digital animation.

The exhibition is on view July 28, 2016–January 17, 2017 with a public reception on July 28, 2016 from 5–8pm. At that reception, Rogers will re-perform the choreography of Much Ado About Nothing and will then be joined by Ezawa to discuss their project in an informal talk at 6:30pm. The evening also serves as the opening of the installation Negev Wheel by Bay Area environmental artist Ned Kahn. Kahn will speak at 6pm. In addition, there will be a talk by Ezawa on Thursday, August 18, 2016 from 6–6:30pm. Both programs are free with admission of just $8 after 5pm.




Kota Ezawa

Kota Ezawa’s work has been displayed in a number of museum solo exhibitions including at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA (2015), Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York (2013), the Vancouver Art Gallery's outdoor exhibition space Offsite (2012), and the Hayward Gallery Project Space in London (2007). His work has been included in group exhibitions such as Out of the Ordinary at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (2013), After Photoshop at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (2012), and The More Things Change at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (2011). Ezawa's work has earned a number of awards, including the SECA Art Award of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006), a Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation (2010), and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award (2003).

Ezawa lives and works in Oakland.

James Kirby Rogers

James Kirby Rogers was raised in Paris and San Francisco and began his ballet studies at the age of nine under the direction of Richard Gibson at the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco. Rogers continued his studies in San Francisco at Oberlin Dance Collective with Augusta Moore, Lines Ballet with Erik Wagner, and The San Francisco Ballet School summer program. He studied under Mikhail Tchoupakov and Susan Jaffe at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Rogers competed in the 2015 Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York City. In 2015, Rogers joined Houston Ballet II under the direction of Stanton Welsh. This August, he will join Kansas City Ballet after touring Australia with Houston Ballet. He has danced principal roles in works by contemporary choreographers Garrett Smith, John Neumeier, and Stanton Welsh, as well as repertory works by Balanchine, Bourneville, and Petipa.

The Jewish Tradition of Havruta

In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art draws inspiration from the traditional Jewish learning method of studying the Talmud in pairs, havruta. The Talmud itself is a book of scholarly exchange with writings outlining Jewish law by multiple rabbinic authors in two parts—the >Mishnah, a transcription of the Oral Torah (c. 200 CE) and the Gemara, commentary on the laws (c. 500 CE). There are approximately 120 known authors of the Mishnah alone. Contrasted with the university model where students passively listen to lectures to absorb information, havruta demands active participation and engagement with the texts being studied. The root word haver—“friend” in Hebrew—emphasizes the communal nature of learning, and the havruta learning model reflects the Jewish affinity for asking questions and grappling with complex topics, together.

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; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; the Hellman Family; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Osterweis Capital Management; Dorothy R. Saxe; Target; 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 $15* for adults, $13* for students and senior citizens with a valid ID, and $8* 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. 

*Price reflects an additional $3 surcharge throughout the run of Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition.

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