Future exhibits: from Warhol to seder plates to Chagall

Marilyn Monroe and Martin Buber might not have a lot in common. But they do share one unlikely characteristic: Both were muses for Andy Warhol.

This time it’s Buber, and not Marilyn, who will be on display in an exhibit of Warhol paintings, coming to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in October.

From Oct. 12 to Jan. 25, 2009, “Ten Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century” will be on display at the CJM, part of its collection of temporary rotating exhibits. “Ten Portraits” features Warhol’s screenprints of Jewish luminaries such as Sigmund Freud, Golda Meir, Louis Brandeis and Gertrude Stein.

The paintings, which will come to San Francisco after their stint at the Jewish Museum in New York, will instantly be recognizable to Warhol aficionados — and just about everyone else. The pop artist used photo-negative effects and blocks of bright colors transposed over photographs or simple drawings of the figures, creating a look similar to his Marilyn screenprints of the early ’60s.

The exhibit was first shown at the New York Jewish Museum in 1980, where it was met with both praise and criticism (unsurprisingly, since Warhol was one of the most celebrated and controversial artists of his time). The portraits were lauded for their unique use of color and geometry, but some critics were skeptical over the artist’s intentions.

Warhol’s portrait isn’t the only appearance the museum has planned for Gertrude Stein. The famed Jewish writer will be the star of her own exhibit, “Seeing Gertrude Stein,” from October 2010 to March 2011. The exhibit will give an intimate look at Stein’s work, her lifestyle, her time in France during World War II, and much more, featuring some archival materials never publicly seen. It will also look at Stein’s influence on future generations of writers, artists, musicians and performers.

Another exhibit will take a look at a more traditional Jewish theme.

Opening March 1, 2009 at the museum, “You Shall Tell Your Children: Artists Explore the Passover Seder Plate” will invite 100 local and national artists to explore the meaning and form of the seder plate.

The artists will take a contemporary look at the ancient seder plate, interpreting it from a modern perspective and exploring its universality. The exhibit will be featured at the CJM through May 31, 2009.

Also in the spring of 2009, on April 19, “Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949” will open. The exhibit will run through the summer, closing Sept. 7, 2009.

“Chagall and the Artists” is the first exhibit entirely devoted to the artwork of Russian Jewish theater productions in the first half of the 20th century.

It’s a rather specific topic, but the early years of the Soviet Union were a heyday for Jewish artists like Marc Chagall, Natan Altman and Robert Falk, who teamed up with avant-garde playwrights, actors and theatrical producers to create innovative set designs, costumes, posters and more for the Jewish theater. Many of the pieces on display at the CJM will never have been exhibited before.

Other future exhibits are also planned, including Susan Hiller’s “J Street Project,” from June 28, 2009 to Oct. 11, 2009. There are 302 roads, streets, and paths in Germany with names referring to a Jewish presence. Artist Susan Hiller visited all of them over a three-year period, filming and taking photographs of these historically evocative places.