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Press Release

The Contemporary Jewish Museum Announces Artists Included in the California Jewish Open

Exhibition marks The CJM’s first major open call exhibition, bringing together nearly 50 artists from throughout the Golden State

Thursday, April 4, 2024 (San Francisco, CA) — Today, The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) has announced the artists included in the first edition of the California Jewish Open. The exhibition is The Museum’s first major open call-based exhibition, and invited any Jewish-identifying artist living in California to respond to the question: How are artists looking to the many aspects of Jewish culture, identity, and community to foster, reimagine, hold, or discover connection?

 The exhibition will be on view June 6-October 20, 2024 and is guest-curated by Elissa Strauss, artistic director of LABA Bay Area, a Laboratory for Jewish Culture and author of the upcoming book When You Care. The show speaks to a core piece of The Museum’s mission: to reflect on contemporary Jewish life through the eyes of artists. Art has long offered an essential outlet for processing the events of the world. During a time marked by grief and loss, the California Jewish Open aims to create space for dialogue by presenting the work of nearly 50 artists offering their perspectives on their connection to Judaism, the world, their personal history, and one another.

“In the California Jewish Open, we are excited to create a platform for Jewish artists from throughout the state to exhibit their work, and to delve into the many facets of what it means to seek out connection today,” said guest curator Elissa Strauss. “The various ways these artists explore connection—and the inevitable friction that emerges when bringing them into conversation with one another—is reflective of a core piece of Jewish culture: the belief in dialogue, debate, and questioning as a fertile source for sparking discussion and attempting to understand the world. This process is something Jews have long thought of as holy work.”

Connection can be a complicated process, one bound to produce both pleasure and tension, individually and collectively. The exhibition offers opportunities for Jewish artists to present different, and sometimes conflicting, viewpoints on wide-ranging topics. Organized around four themes that explore our relationship with the Earth, other humans, the past and future, and the divine, the exhibition brings together work in a variety of media, including large-scale sculptures, interactive video games, intimate paintings, videos, photographs, and more.

In light of current events and their place in the minds of contemporary Jewish artists, politically-oriented pieces were an expected component of submissions. Among the works selected for the exhibition were those grieving the October 7th Hamas attack in Israel, and those speaking out against Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza and in support of human rights for Palestinians. However, after all of the artists were notified of their inclusion, a group of artists chose to withdraw their works. The decision came after The Museum was not able to meet a list of conditions they presented after being accepted into the exhibition. The work of the artists who withdrew comprised the group of artworks that—among other ideas—offered a clear position in support of Palestinians.

To both honor the perspective that would have been shared through these works, and to authentically reflect the struggle for dialogue that is illustrated by the artists’ decisions to withdraw, The CJM will leave blank space on the gallery walls where each of these works was intended to be included. The absence of the artworks—and the missing perspectives that these empty spaces reflect—sincerely aims to hold space for critical thinking at this fraught time, and in doing so, space for the community at large. At a time when many need connection more than ever, the blank walls speak to a moment when connection may also feel insufficient or impossible.

The 47 artists included in the California Jewish Open are: Richard H. Alpert, Cheselyn Amato, Alexis Arnold, Marianna Baker, Robin L. Bernstein, Emily Bogin, Leon Borensztein, Natalya Burd, Kim Kyne Cohen, Beth Fein, Rebecca Fox, Deborah Benioff Friedman, Elina Frumerman, J. Ruth Gendler, Rebekah Goldstein, Amadi Greenstein, Ash Hay, Christine Huhn, Ken Kalman, Marty Katzoff, Mirka Knaster, Lisa Kokin, Anna Landa, Liz Lauter, Terri Loewenthal, Bernie Lubell, Stela Mandel, Bonny Nahmias, Irene Nelson, Vanessa Niederstrasser, Meirav Ong, Rebecca Ora (rora), Laura Puras, Forest Reid, Georgina Reskala, Kim Schoenstadt, Ronit Shalem, Laurie Shapiro, Tiffany Shlain, Deborah Stein, Alex Stern, Vanessa Thill, Adam Thorman, Amy Trachtenberg, Anne Wolf, Steven Wolkoff, and Holly Wong.

Taken as a whole, the Contemporary Jewish Open offers space for these artists to reflect on the myriad ways in which their Jewish identity informs their practice, their thinking, their belief systems, and their connection to the world at large. In creating a platform for these artists, The CJM aims to provide visitors the opportunity to open themselves to various expressions of creativity that reflect thriving Jewish life in the past, present, and future.

About The Contemporary Jewish Museum

For over thirty years The CJM has engaged audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. In 2008, The Museum opened a new building designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase l’chaim (“to life”), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to welcome all to explore the evolving, dynamic Jewish life of today through art, culture, and dialogue. In doing so, The CJM aspires to foster healthy Jewish identities, enrich the communities The Museum serves, and combat intolerance of all kinds.

Support for the California Jewish Open is generously provided by Grants for the Arts and by Judith and Robert Aptekar.

Press contact

Abby Margulies

Abby Margulies
Public Relations